Saturday, 27 August 2011

Focus on Design

With the last update of Xanthus Quest I released a rather scrappy platinum system that allowed you to purchase VIP packs with a new game currency. It quickly became apparent however that players were rather confused by the new system, and I believe that I am entirely to blame for that.
Up until this point I have been focussing too heavily on features over design, with the priority being to get features out fast. I believe that we have reached a turning point with Xanthus Quest. We now have very dedicated players who want and deserve a better quality with new features. I am now very confident with my engineering efforts for Xanthus Quest, and have the game running quite smoothly now. Though the recent quest and inventory system overhaul was quite a fiasco, I blame that largely on my own short sightedness in not realising that it was time to slow down.
The new super tool as I like to call it, which allows -bleak- to create new encounters, quests, monsters etc. without my intervention has been running smoothly for a number of weeks now. This should allow -bleak- to create new content largely unaided by me, thereby freeing me up to take my time with new features and thoroughly test them. This is something that I definitely should have done with the new cache system. It wouldn't have been the end of the world if players had to go a couple of weeks without any updates to the game while -bleak- was able to keep them entertained with new content.
Instead of realising this however, I proceeded to push the new cache system through with entirely too little  testing for such a far reaching change to the fundamental aspects of the game. As a result of this I went into damage minimisation mode and started applying patches and updates as quickly as possible and now have a rather ugly system happening for updating equipment and quests. Every time I deal with this code it will serve as a reminder to slow down, think it through and test, test, test. This can only be a good thing.
I learned my lesson here when it came to the Facebook integration. I worked on this integration rather quietly in the background for a week before I released stage 1. The result is a reasonably solid, better thought out system. However I then rushed the platinum system. Bad. The new platinum system was rushed, lacked planning, and was generally just thrown together, and it showed. Lesson learned. Again.
Having finally let the lesson sink in this time, I have taken the time to really think through the new platinum system. Having introduced a new platinum store that takes a leaf out of the blacksmith and auction house design. The VIP packs have been moved to being items, as scrolls. This has allowed me to allow for other items to be sold for platinum, like energy and stamina potions. I have also been spending more time than usual thinking about the general flow of the players experience as they progress from buying platinum, to purchasing items, to purchasing more platinum. This still needs more work, however it is much better experience for the player and is how I should have released the system in the first place.
First impressions are important, and so is the micro payment system for the long term survival of Xanthus Quest. Such an important system deserves a lot more attention than it was given, the game deserves better and so do the players. I will strive to do better in the future.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Alot has happened

It has been a long time since I have posted to this blog, and obviously a lot has happened since then. My previous project, Flow Forum, has long since been abandoned. After getting stuck into web game development shortly after abandoning the project I can't say that I really have any regrets about the decision. The new project, Xanthus Quest, has since been launched (albeit a little prematurely) and is going strong, with great player feedback to date.

Xanthus Quest

Xanthus Quest was originally planned to be a simple game that would be familiar to players of MarcoLand and Crimson Moon, however once I added the ability to explore wilderness and dynamically change page content without having to reload the page via ajax the game took a very different turn. PvPing has taken a backseat to exploring areas and performing quests.
Players have loved these quests and have told us that they want more of them, and so that is what we are doing. This has created problems however as these quests were supposed to be a rarity and not the main feature of the game, as such the games code was not structured very well for these quests and exploring. This has meant that I was constantly hacking together new areas and quests for players, making the code very cluttered, messy and hard to maintain. I realised once the Wastelands handler blew out to more than 5000 lines of code that this was not maintainable, so I have decided that I need to take a step back from adding these features and add in some proper structure to make maintenance and expansion easier moving forward.

Admin Section

With the realisation that we have more people willing to and able to contribute to storyline, images etc. than coders I decided to take this rewrite opportunity to move the bulk of the quest, and encounter information to the database rather than code. This will free me up alot more to work on new features which will be very important if I am to remain the sole programmer for Xanthus Quest and add new features to the game beyond quests and encounters. Work on this new dynamic encounter system has been going for a number of weeks now and we now have some encounters being driven entirely by the database that would have taken me weeks to program with the old system, which is great news.
The next step in the dynamic encounters system is the ability for admin's to create quests and provide status information for every status in the quest. Work on this has been good and should be complete this week. One less thing for me to have to handle in the code, which means one step closer to fixed forums etc.

What is Next

Once the quests system is done, the next step will be NPC dialogue that is quest, quest status and player inventory aware. This will probably require a week to build, after which I am sure that there will be more features for me to add to the dynamic encounter, monster, inventory and quest systems to give Bleak and Hyalix more options for creating new quests for all of you guys to play with.

I will be focussing on Xanthus Quest development with this blog in the future and will check back for any feedback or comments you leave in the comments below.