Gamma II over, looking to the future

Week 44 is over, and along with it the Gamma II. Hall of Fame for Gamma II has been published, you can browse the many interesting statistics there. Of course, in time I’ll transfer the old Halls from that ancient page. The game is currently in DEMO mode – players have unlimited mana and godlike spellcasting powers.

Lessions Learned – Post Mortem

I’ve pulled the plug about 2 weeks ahead of schedule, mainly due to the fact one of the two empires was defeated and there was little point in letting the game linger on. Yes, this has hurt the winning empire because in the following two weeks they would have flushed everyone from the opposing empire from most of the Top charts. I humbly apologize and thank you for your continued patience. On the bright side – as long as the players were still active and the DEMO is raging – I got several very high-priority bug reports, even some crash-level issues. I’m not sure I’d have received these in 2 weeks after the players moved on due to boredom.

So, what did we learn from this round?

  • Combat still needs work. There were far too many questions relating to combat, unit behavior and similar. This needs to be simplified.
  • Territory bonuses along with defensive spells such as Bog and Shatterscape make the game far too static. Expect nerfs in this department.
  • HoF scoring still needs work and it needs to be made public before the round even starts. We also need to close a few remaining loopholes.
  • A game should end when an overwhelming majority of players decides it should end. Expect a Council of Elders next round.
  • Client is still very flaky and borderline unusable from mobile devices. It’s UI needs a radical change.
  • Settlements should have more mechanical variety from the beginning. Expect boosting of focuses even for Tier 1 settlements.

What was done well?

  • Technically – the SRP and later SDP (see below) were a smashing success. Server itself is stable as a rock, capable of handling ticks blazingly fast (and we haven’t even begun optimizations).
  • Settlement focuses were a good thing, but some of them require significant boosting.
  • Territories were received well and played a crucial role in how the war was waged.
  • Thuggery as well as tutoring has been found a good addition with only a few balancing remarks.
  • Simple GUI change such as visible Landmarks resounded especially well among the players – meaning “Get your shit together and create a GUI worthy of this game, Entitiy.Zephyr”.

Overall the round ended with maybe 5-10% of the bugcount from last round, meaning we’re approaching beta-level testing phase.

To the Future!

So, what’s in store? There are several different fronts I intend to work on during the next few months:

Architecture

After SRP was completed, work began on SDP – the Skeleton Detachment Programme. This was done in a single day – moving all the different threads into standalone processes. This move allowed me to sidestep GIL, which means every “worker” can do its job independently of others, as fast as the processor allows it. As a result expensive operations such as flushing post-tick topologies to players was dropped from approximately 10-15 seconds down to 2 seconds – an incredible increase, which can go only higher as I add additional processor cores to the Dominance server (currently running on 12 out of 24 available cores).

For the next round I intend to introduce another type of worker – one responsible for authentication and chats – so players during tick can enter the game and chat away.

Aside for this relatively minor addition there are no further plans for significant changes.

Gameplay

See the post-mortem above. We’ll require simplifications in many areas. In addition to those:

  • The Hall of Fame shows that some spells are woefully underused. Not a single Rune Shianzu cast, really? Those spells need to drop their prices like rocks.
  • PvE elements have long been on my TODO list. Be they random monsters carrying proceduraly generated artifacts and roaming the map, land-based “events” such as whirlpools connecting distant seas, or any other interesting point of contention – like mana mines or other temporary bonus-yielding events.
  • Further balancing, balancing, balancing. This round suffered from a severe mana depression – mainly caused by low player count but also due to the fact the settlements were now available for upgrade to all and everyone saved most of their mana to purchase bigger and prettier houses. We need to balance this – and make it abundantly clear that tier 4 (or even 3) settlements are not in fact a requirement for every elder to have or for the empire to win.

UI

Alas, poor Pycant! I knew him, entity.self, a fellow of infinite
jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath bore me on his back a
thousand times, and now how abhorr’d in my imagination it is!
My gorge rises at it.

If anything became apparent to me, it’s that a messy client can be worse than no client at all. We shall not meet again, Pycant.

“- ??? What now?”

Oh, but it should be obvious by now. Showing biomes and height levels AND territory at the same time? and ontop of that numerous avatars, settlements, other objects? No wonder browsers choke – it’s simply too much. Furthermore, messy “forms” – which should have been eliminated from the start, impossible targeting for avatars and spells, unresponsive controls, text outflowing its boxes, utterly incompetent chat + “whisper” that doesn’t whisper more often that it does – it’s a recipe for disaster.

What the client needs is an overhaul as thorough as the SRP was for the server. I’m talking about a complete revamp of the entire GUI – yes, from the scratch. And yes, I’ll keep some of the visual elements but the entire thing needs a full redesign.

I’m sure you’ll be seeing more on this front in the following Monolith Mondays.

 

As for now – I’m going to finish my summer vacation in relative peace. Thank you all for joining once again and playing Dominance. I hope you had fun, and I hope there wasn’t too much frustration to bear. Next round is… drumroll… in two weeks.