What a week! For the first time in almost two years of development, other people than ourselves started playing Prosperous Universe! We were prepared so see everything blow up in a spectacular ball of fire, but to our surprise, we saw relatively few technical issues. That said, this is our very first round of testing and many conceptional and UX issues immediately came to light that we will have to take care off over the coming weeks and months. But that’s what closed alpha tests are for and now that the game slowly starts to come alive, we are more motivated than ever! If you want to be part of any of the future alpha test rounds, make sure to let us know on the forums!
In a bout of last minute panic before the imminent alpha test, I did a not-so-minor refactoring of our contract system. This system isn’t visible much at the moment and in fact is only ever needed in a particular case in which you buy materials at a commodity exchange where you don’t have storage capacity. But the system is intended to be the foundation of a lot of complex features in the future and I wanted to get a few things cleaned up “before it’s too late”. After two days of intense work I realized that it was actually a text-book refactoring: I rewrote the whole thing but the (current) functionality didn’t change a bit. That’s a plus, I guess. And also that this tool is now a lot more powerful and should allow for some fancy stuff in the future.
For the rest of the week I continued my work from last week, putting in an income statement tile that allows you to…well…see the income statement of your company. I also tore down our test server one last time and reset it with the data used in the alpha test.
Once the alpha test had commenced I fixed various smaller bugs here and there. The biggest post-launch feature I put in was a rudimentary presence system that lets players know who’s currently active in the game. Without it, it was almost impossible to tell whether someone was available for a chat on a channel, for example.
Luckily I had prepared most of the things necessary for the alpha test last week. When I came back to the office on Wednesday I spent quite a bit of time smoke testing the server. It is incredible how many errors, UI quirks and other things you only notice once you actually try to play the game as a whole and not just test a specific feature.
One of the last changes I made to the settings was changing a factor the market makers use to determine the prices of system-supplied commodities. These are commodities that are being sold by (automatic) agents of the factions. As it would turn out later in the test, this factor and the behavior of these agents,is quite important.
The test itself began on Thursday and contrary to my expectation s the servers didn’t go up in flames immediately. Quite the opposite: On Thursday night and Friday we had up to 10 players online simultaneously chatting, trading, producing. Of course a lot of bugs have been found in these first days but most where minor or easy to fix. On Saturday the first major bugs happened and prevented at least one player from continuing to play. We will investigate this as soon as possible.
I spent the rest of the week fixing these bugs and trying to help the players whenever I could. We collected all the comments, feedback and critisism and will discuss it next week when I will be at simulogics HQ.
Probably the biggest insight for me so far was how the production of commodities and buildings worked. The goal of the test was to set up a base, produce consumables for the workforces and keep them happy. The bonus goal was to set up a level 2 habitation module. Some players already reached that goal but did so without too much collaboration with others. They produced almost everything themselves and that’s a sign that the cost for the basic buildings is way too low at the moment. I’ll have to tweak the costs for the next test.