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Skirmishes and Excitement

It's been awhile since the last newspost, due to my recent absence / fun with trying to fly during snowstorm season, so here's an update on where we are now:

Border Skirmish: Andy and Michael are working to improve the way NPC targets are allocated, to make for cooler interaction with the NPC pilots during skirmish events. As it is right now, there's a tendency for fighter craft to completely ignore other fighter craft (players or not) and fly directly for the capships, where they immediately die in a colorful fusillade of turret fire. This happens, because the current NPC targeting prioritizes those enemies who have done the most damage. Since the capital ships in these big battles tend to last a lot longer than the fighters, they build up high priorities. All of this ends up looking kind of dumb, and not being as much fun for the real player participants. So anyway, a fix is in the works, probably an evolutionary step towards more complex NPC/PC grouping and targeting behaviour. You may also begin to see "bombers" appearing as a more visible class in these battles, at least for the purposes of testing these behaviours, but without actual Torpedo class weapons (until further turret modifications take place). Once we rework some of these back-end mechanics, it'll make the expansion/improvement of the various skirmishes (Border, Hive, etc) easier and faster to implement.

Hive Changes: A bug was causing the Leviathan(s) to be effectively impossible to defeat, once all the Bastions had been destroyed. A fix for this will be going in tonight, along with a general Hive expansion-restart (jumpstarted to four Bastions). So, once this is in place, a well-organized group of 7-10 players should be able to destroy a Hive once again. As this whole expansion/destruction process becomes a bit more tested and streamlined, we'll start to make the drops and destruction bonuses more valuable and important to other gameplay (like, say, crafting).

Small UI Changes: Some development has gone into creating new mechanisms for various Kourier (and other) based gameplay to communicate with the UI (for example, displaying battle progress). This is important for a lot of the new "big battle" and other large-scale "event" type gameplay that we're working towards. You should see some small examples of this in production this evening.

PCC Missions: Ray has written a bunch of cool improvements to the mission system, to allow us to keep clear, dynamic lists of the current mission objectives in actual mission log. We're going to try to start using these features in some of the more obvious missions that need them, such as the various mining missions ("Go mine us 50 crates of ore", etc) where there's been a lot of confusion arising from the existing objectives and descriptions. Information on how this all works will also be posted to the PCC forum in due course, for the benefit of our PCC members.

Addons & New Stuff: Ray has been working, off and on, to move a lot of the "content definition / creation" information from static Lua files into our database. This week he's moving forward with building a new web-based tool suite that will allow us (and specifically, me) to create new addons, ships, and other types of content, test them easily, and push them into production. The benefits of this kind of system are significant, they make the prototyping of new weapons or other items a lot simpler and less time consuming, and also make it possible me for to add or edit items without requiring a client patch. All of this will be very important, going down the line, with crafting systems and other usages of items/ships/addons. Having all the data definitions be dynamic and database-accessible will play a big part in future gameplay mechanics, which is part of why we're trying to get it out of the way now.

Bugs: We've had some server-stability problems over the last few weeks, which we've managed to track down and temporarily work around, while we fix it properly. On the upside, we've had upwards of 40,000 NPCs in the game, doing various things in both virtual "simulated" sectors that aren't actually running, as well as in running sectors with other players, and the continual transitions between the two. This is a good sign for future scalability of the new Erlang-based back-end we call "Kourier", and we're continuing to add fault tolerance features and instrumentation to let us watch how the whole system is performing. This will hopefully let us foresee some of the more obvious system-scalability problems in advance, and also give us good data on our working limits from occasional stress-testing.

Server Changes: Related to fixing the above instabilities, I'll be doing some maintenance this coming week on our server cluster. Because of this, we'll probably have a small scheduled downtime somewhere in the next two weeks (an hour or two, during low usage time). During this combined bugfixing / upgrading process, we'll also be bringing online five new dual-core cluster servers, to further improve our capacity to handle various large-scale gameplay (Border-Skirmish-like stuff, and so on). I'll post about the scheduled downtime when I'm closer to being ready to roll out.

That's about it for now, please let us know of any problems you see, and continue posting new ideas to Suggestions (for newbies, it's recommended you read the sticky listing previously made suggestions before posting).