As I write this it’s 4:30am, that unpleasant time of night when you can’t predict whether the Burger King drive through is going to sell you a Whopper Meal or a Croissanwich Meal. (It was the latter, and I am sad.) I’ve just arrived at the tiny Elder Game office to work on MMO bugs. I figured I’d give a brief status update while I eat this surprisingly greasy breakfast sandwich.
I had some great days last week, getting a ton of bugs fixed, but they left me pretty tired. Yesterday I alternated between sleeping continuously and waking up just enough to play Bioshock for a few hours, then falling back asleep. I’m less tired now, but Bioshock is still at home beckoning… so I am here at the office instead!
(If you skip on testing Project Gorgon to play Bioshock Infinite, I won’t blame you. But it’s a pretty short game, so remember to come back!)
What Players Are Saying
The feedback from the MMO has been great, and I really appreciate every piece of info you’ve sent in. Please keep sending info, it’s my best way of telling what’s going on right now. And if six people report the same bug, that’s not a waste… that means I should prioritize it!
It’s actually pretty hard for me to get a read on the general opinion of the game… some people really get into it. Others think it has potential but aren’t really hooked in its current form. Others quit within a minute or two.
The game does seem similar to other MMOs at first, so that may be part of the problem. But then again, it is similar to other MMOs in many ways. I’ve been aiming to improve on existing MMO tropes, not replace them.
For instance, rather than replacing hot bars, I want to show hotbar-style combat in the best light possible. But I’ve still got a long way to go there, I think. And anyway it’s not an approach everybody will enjoy.
Several people have mentioned how “adventure-gamey” it feels, and I’m glad of that, since it’s intentional. People who see the game as a pseudo-adventure-game seem to enjoy the exploration elements. People who play it like a regular MMO miss a lot of stuff… for instance, it’s possible to get out of the tutorial dungeon with a mere two skill sets, or a whopping six skills, depending on whether you do the adventure-y parts or not. (They can always go back later to find them, or find the skills elsewhere in the game… the problem is just that it can be boring having only two skills.)
I don’t telegraph how this works well enough, and lots of people seem to be missing big cues. Maybe those players aren’t going to like this game anyway, or maybe I just need to find a way to get them in the right mindset. I’m hoping for the latter.
In the short term what I’ll do is add a little note before you log in, trying to get you in the right mindset before you start. That’s heavy-handed, but it’ll work during alpha. Eventually I’ll redo the newbie experience entirely, but I don’t feel like I’m ready for that yet… I don’t really understand everything that needs to be focused on well enough yet.
The Gorgon Engine itself is holding up well. The physics-processing units are CPU-bound, meaning that there’s a bit of lag in moving monsters around sometimes, but it’s pretty mild right now. I can wait on optimizing that part. If a bunch of players join in and make the lag noticeable, I’ll just rent another server and run additional physics units.
The “brain box” that ties all the physics units together is using almost 0% of its CPU, which is good since there’s only a few players online at once. (If necessary, I can set up multiple linked brain boxes, but I’d prefer if I can use one brain box for an entire world — it’s much simpler!)
However, that brain box is using way too much memory. It’s a Java program, so the memory graph naturally looks like a buzzsaw due the garbage collector — and that’s fine. But the low point of the buzzsaw graph slowly climbs up and up and up throughout the day, until it suddenly plummets all the way back down, or it runs out of memory and crashes the server.
This means that some game system is retaining a ton of memory, and very occasionally cleaning itself up. I’m not sure what’s going on there. I’ve used memory profilers on my test server, but it doesn’t show anything… this leak is only detectable when multiple people are playing for hours at a time.
So I’m going to have to do memory profiling on the live server… something I’ve never done in Java before. So look forward to that sometime this week! Hopefully you won’t notice a thing… it will use more CPU, but the brain box has so much CPU to spare that it shouldn’t be detectable. But we’ll see!
What’s Coming In The Next Week
I’m working on some serious bugs tonight, such as “I gave Joeh a gift and suddenly he Despises me and won’t talk to me”. After that I’m going to work on improving corpses — making them easier to loot and less cluttery when there’s dozens of them. (It’s not as simple as melting them away, since you may be planning to come back and harvest those corpses, or autopsy them, or just plain eat them…)
After that, I’ll look into the friendly-fire bugs, fix up some missing Favor quests, and then probably on to the third dungeon.
And also, somewhere in there, profiling the server’s RAM usage.
What’s Coming This Month
And beyond next week? I have two more combat skills and four more non-combat skills that are partially done… including huge ones like pet taming and armor crafting! I intend to get those finished up in the coming weeks. I’ll also be fleshing out the rest of the NPCs so they have Favor quests, and adding more things to do on the landscape and in the dungeons. There are a bunch of new monsters waiting in the wings from the LoE team, and handy new skills like teleportation. Lots of content, in other words.
At this point, with so few players, I’m skipping things like grouping features, custom chat rooms, guilds, and so on. Those will come when the average load is more than three players!
However, this is just my current plan… your feedback can really change my direction, so if there’s pressing issues keeping you from playing (or at least from enjoying yourself), please let me know!