Project Reality, Developer's Notes
Entry One: Finally out of alpha, today. The whole team is really excited. I've never been so glad to be a project lead. When it's finished, this may just be the greatest game we've ever produced. The complexity of the systems should blow everyone away. I have to admit, I was even a little sad to see the alpha build go. I'd gotten kind of attached to some of those funny-looking critters we made. Maybe I'll try bringing some them back in the beta, somehow, just see how it goes...
Entry Two: First day went pretty smoothly, all things considered. Got the terrain shaped and the skybox up faster than I expected. A slight glitch in the lighting engine, but I got it straightened out eventually. Just some minor hiccup with the time scale. The good news is that we already have our day/night cycle, now. Bad news is we had to push back the weather engine and tide systems for it. Made a two-day job out of something that should have been one. Finished now though. I hope. I have a feeling I should double-check, just to be sure.
Entry Three: Well, I knew that I should have checked it. Came in today and the whole map was flooded. Ate up a bit of the day just to get continents back. The engine kept wanting to fill in new water whenever we cleared a spot out. I swear...you'd never get problems like this in an older engine. It's okay, though. One of the new guys came up with the idea of lowering the temperature setting, so that it switched to ice physics. Made the cleanup a snap. We had to leave a few pockets behind, because some quirk in the system left us with more water than we started, but it actually doesn't look bad, and I think it's mostly in places players won't go anyway.
Either way, after the minor crisis, my team really pulled together. There was a monumental effort from everyone to make sure the map got done in time. Looks like a pretty good selection of decorators, with some things the players should be able to use hidden away. It should be fun for the players and us seeing what creative applications they can find, and the system is flexible enough to let them produce some variations of their own. It's actually a simplified version of the creature system, which I'm really eager to get back into. Tomorrow, hopefully. Oh yeah, the trees look pretty nice too. A few of the team members really surprised me with their creative designs. They almost look out of place, but that should just make it more interesting (and I may have slipped some similarly outlandish elements into the terrain while everyone else was working).
Entry Four: Looks like I won't get to work on the mobs today, after all. That day/night system I threw together to fix the lighting engine does the job, but it's going to need some serious tweaking to work with the farming system. Probably will need to make some tweaks to the weather, too. And, if we're doing all that, we might as well put a bit more polish on the skybox, too. I'm getting this journal down in the morning, instead of at the end of today, because it looks like it'll be an all-day job. I don't want to forget an update because I'm feeling worn out.
Entry Five: Yep, getting all the kinks in the time system took every bit as long as I expected, and longer. Hopefully, we shouldn't need to mess with it again, though. I'll admit, there were one or two bugs we couldn't fix, but they shouldn't pose a problem. Some odd colour or size glitches in the night sky just make it more interesting to look at, right? Anyway, finally got back into the mob maker today. None of us has worked with it since the start of the alpha, so by mutual agreement, we stuck to things that had simple rigging. We'll get into the more complex designs tomorrow, once everyone's had a chance to get their feet wet and re-learn how it works. Knowing me, I'll probably get too wrapped up in it to remember to make another entry until we're finished, though. For now, I'll just say that I have a few pretty crazy ideas planned, just for fun.
Entry Six: Finally done with mobs. Even got the player models knocked out using the same system. I'm glad we laid most of the foundations down in the alpha stage. Now the game practically writes itself. We provide assets and balancing, and the engine does the rest. Real slick. So after only a week, we're ready to run some preliminary tests. Not a full-load test, but at least a small test team can play around in our walled garden area and make sure everything is going the way it should. They'll give a signal when they're satisfied that the game is ready to go live. Probably need to put a firewall to keep players off of the test server when that happens, but for now I'm just thinking about the best way to enjoy my weekend.
Entry Seven: Wow! Been gone from this a while. There wasn't much to report while the first testers did their thing. I stopped in to visit them a couple times. Nice kids, really seemed pretty awed to meet the "Big Guy" in charge of the project. Sure were new to this, though. One of the guys had to show them how to use the system when they were ready to okay the open beta. Poor kids thought that they were going to get in trouble for giving the okay without my say-so. Heh.
That's all cleared up now, though, and we've actually been live for a while. Let me tell you, if it seems like a lot of work developing a game, try managing one when it's active and online! It's been a great way to find all those bugs we couldn't have caught on our own, but some of the things our players do! We've got folks creating items with ridiculous stats, tricking the physics and weather engines, a couple have even found a way to glitch the creature engine so that it re-assigns species. Whoops! We're rolling out the patches as fast as we can, but I think I'm going to have to talk to Matt in legal about putting some strongly-worded terms about using exploits into the next update to the EULA.
Entry Eight: Things are still wild with the beta. It's got all of us really earning our paychecks. Since I haven't had time to update regularly, I may as well keep this diary to just the important stuff from now on.
For instance, it turns out that people are a lot more interested in the player versus player aspect than in fighting mobs. After a little while, we just don't see that much PVE going on anymore. On the other hand, there's some big PVP event being set up by our users what seems like every week. That's something we really didn't count on, and we'll have to make some adjustments when we go to full release, taking that into account. Still a little time to plan for that, but we're fast getting a long list of things that will need to be done.
Entry Nine: Ending the beta today. We have to do one last wipe, and I know it's got a lot of people upset. To help soften the blow, we held a contest, to see which elements from the beta people really wanted to carry over. For the most part, the results don't surprise me, after what I've seen. We'll be cutting a lot of the more outlandish stuff to focus on giving people mostly just more resources to work with.
That's not to say we won't include any hostile mobs at all. You need to have something to challenge the players besides themselves. Plus, it should give the ones that would rather not have a fair fight something to do. I haven't forgot my plans to bring back some of the alpha critters, though. I think I know a couple of places I can sneak in one or two that should make things...interesting.
Entry Ten: Full release is going well. Still some problems that will need patching, but not nearly as bad as they were early on. However, today I had to handle one of the less pleasant aspects of being in charge of a project like this. We started getting reports last week about a couple of player communities that had been showing some serious disregard for the EULA. We gave the players that weren't involved a bit of time to get their stuff out, then it was time to bring down the hammer. Banning players is never fun for anyone, but if you don't make an example now and then, more players will get the idea that they can just do whatever they want. Hopefully, I won't have to exert this authority too often, though. Seeing nothing but ruins where once were thriving player communities is not fun for anyone.
Entry Eleven: Some of us have taken to going on the servers now and then, just to check out how things are going. We each have our own favourite hangouts. I have to say, though, that I'm not used to being treated like a celebrity. I knew some of the other guys had their own little fan-clubs, but it turns out I do too. Had to ask them not to make shrines to me, though. That honestly creeped me out a bit. Not sure how often I'm going to go out and face my "adoring public". I'll need to be present for events, but I think I can do most things remotely.
Final Entry: It's been a long and crazy ride. After the success of this project, I got pulled onto newer and greater things. Looking back on it, there's still a few bugs we never got ironed out, and probably never will, but they're rare and hard to trigger. The playerbase is absolutely massive now, and with only a fraction of the Game Masters and full-time admins we used to have, only the most extreme cases have a chance of being addressed. However, the community is still going, despite all the planned content that we just never got around to releasing, and I feel proud of that. Looking over everything, I can see that a few of the surprises I left are still waiting to be discovered, and meanwhile the players and game have generated content that truly surprises me. It's a strange, beautiful world that I helped to make, flawed, but somehow perfect from its imperfections. Of all the games that I've been the Creator, I think that Earth will always have a special place in my heart.