9/7/2020 in devlog
With a shaky start out the gate, Populous is out in wild and stable. The devs talk about the release launch and how issues that arose were mitigated.
What a week! On Wednesday we released Populous, the latest update to the game. If you haven't heard about it you can read about it here or in the past devlogs.
Initially the release went smoothly: I updated the world data, the client and server and restarted everything. It looked all good, the logs showed no (technical) errors, but then the first reports from players came in: some players had bases that received the requested workforces, some didn't receive workforces at all, and some players had bases with and without workforces. I quickly realized where the problem originated, to understand it you need to know how the distribution of workforces after Populous works.
Basically there are two actors working together: a player's base has a certain workforce requirement that depends on the habitation and production line capacities. If one of these changes a workforce request is sent to the planet's population containing the new requirements. After a week the population takes all the requirements it received and distributes the available population accordingly.
A couple of weeks ago we released the first part where the bases send the workforce requirements to the population to collect the first requirements so we would already have them when Populous hit. Unfortunately not all of these requirements contained the location of the bases, which of course fell flat when the populations tried to assign workforces but didn't know the location.
While we were investigating what was going on we set the population simulation interval to one hour to gather more information, since the workforce distribution happens only once in a simulation interval. The downside to this approach was that we simulated a week of population development within a single hour, but the explorer's grace period, a time span where a population gets a 50% bonus on happiness, ran out and the populations declined quickly. This was a bitter pill to swallow, especially for players that build up and depend on a high tier population.
So after we figured out what was wrong, we did yet another patch to reset the population size to a pre-populous value. We are now closely monitoring the developments.
The release of Populous introduced many changes to the game, some of which (as Michi describes above) weren't working as intended from the start. So part of my week was answering lots of questions in regards to how things work or are supposed to work. Now that we're approaching a pretty stable state and players have some time to build up their infrastructure during a 4-weeks "grace" period, rest assured that we'll continue to closely monitor the numbers in-game as well as any feedback on the Discord and the forums. Planetary populations are a big feature affecting many core gameplay systems, so we'll certainly keep tweaking and refining it in the future.
Other than that, I continued my material tree analysis, especially focused on rarely used materials. While ship-building will in itself add more new products of course, it will also be a nice opportunity to bring some alloys and chemicals that so far were part of (almost) no relevant recipes into play. For example, there will be whole bunch of "kits" for cargo bays and fuel tanks of different sizes that you'll put together from specific metals and alloys to then be able to feed it into the public shipyards to fulfill your ship blueprint's requirements.
Speaking of blueprints, I'm also currently in the process of defining how the first iteration of our "ship designer" will work exactly. As usual with entirely new features, we're focusing on concept and content first, i.e. which information to show where, what options will be offered and how choosing one option might affect or restrict the others etc. I'm really looking forward to seeing those spreadsheet drop-downs transferred into the actual game!
Like Fabian and Michi mentioned above, I also worked mostly on Populous last week as it relates to PR and announcements across multiple platforms. Once it again it involved writing up a press release and distributing it among as many "potentially" interested journalists as I could contact. Fingers crossed that some decide to pick up the story. Thanks again to all of you that decided to join the Live Stream! We really enjoyed connecting with you guys and answering some of your great questions.
Aside from Populous, I continued on with Facebook Ads as we want to optimize them better for desktop traffic and test some different audiences to find a winning combination. The traffic from Facebook desktop is definitely a lot lower than on the mobile side but since our game is geared toward desktop players (for now!), it makes sense to focus more on these users for the time being. YouTube will also hopefully start once we have a video ready that is tailored for an ad experience.