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.