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DEVBLOG: THE FUTURE OF DU - Part 1


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PART ONE: REFINING OUR PROCESSES 

As promised last week, we would like to give you a glimpse at the changes, improvements, and additions we have in store for Dual Universe. 

We’ve learned many lessons since our beta began seven months ago.  Going from a backer-focused game in alpha, under NDA, to a public, wide-open beta with many new players gave us a lot of insight in several areas: processes, economics, and gameplay. In this blog, we’ll focus on processes with the latter two being the topics of subsequent blogs. 


THE LONG HARD LOOK

At Novaquark, we’re still a fairly small team. Given the ambition and complexity of this game, it can be quite a challenge to make the right decisions on how to make the most of our resources. To date, we’ve been focused on bug fixing, stabilization, balancing, scaling, and improving our server and database infrastructure - plus firefighting when necessary - to make the game work better. 

 

Not to say that this is all behind us; it never will be (such is the way of MMOs), and we know some bugs and exploits still need to be addressed - this is a beta after all. Still, we paused earlier this year to ponder what the next phase of development of DU should be, to stay the course of the original plan or adapt to how things have evolved since beta began. After taking a  long hard look at everything we’ve learned from the beta, we decided where we need to focus next, based on what we think will be best for Dual Universe and its community. 


“IF IT’S BROKE, FIX IT”
Maintaining a live game while we continue to develop it ended up being quite the leap from our tightly-controlled alpha environment. As much as we prepared for it, actually doing it was a whole different beast. That’s probably one of the areas where the reality check was the most brutal for us. The world of Dual Universe is a persistent one, and every time we introduce something, it impacts the player and the delicate balance of its economy. There’s no safety net, and player feedback often came once bugs or balancing issues had already impacted the game’s common universe. 


Let’s start with how we plan to improve our processes and quality control, because this is an area where doing something wrong can have a major impact on players. We have three goals in this area: 

 

 

  • Gather feedback from players earlier in the process, so that when new features and changes are introduced in the game, their impact on the persistent universe is properly measured. 
  • Have a more flexible and collaborative development approach that will allow us  to take player feedback into consideration, modifying plans when we’re able.  
  • Overall, improve the quality of our releases, which means fewer bugs and exploits, and less hot-fixing.
     

When it comes to gathering feedback from players earlier, we are evaluating some options on how we might get feedback on game design ideas from players at an earlier stage before they have actually entered the production pipeline. We are already seeing significant improvements in this area since the launch of the public test server (PTS), which lets us test prospective new features, improvements and bug fixes in a non-persistent environment where it won’t impact players’ progress on the Live server. If enough players test features on the PTS, we’ll be able to prevent bugs and balancing problems from making their way to the persistent universe. 

 

When we deployed 0.24 on the PTS first, players gave us invaluable feedback, helping us to identify several issues that we were able to address before they reached the production server. Although  our PTS-to-production process isn’t perfect yet, we are still working to improve it and think it’s getting significantly better with each iteration.  In the future, we will expand the use of the PTS to testing prototypes of features, outside of regular releases, so that all players can give their feedback as early in the development process as possible. 

 

Another major improvement to our processes that we are addressing is flexibility. On our way to beta, we had a fairly rigid roadmap that was dictated by the necessity to lay the foundations for all of the gameplay pillars for beta as well as fulfilling our promises to our backers. While the overall plan and long-term goals for DU haven’t changed, we need to be able to adapt to the feedback of players along the way whenever it’s feasible. For example, if we decide to make a major overhaul of our mining mechanics, we need the flexibility to iterate as much as necessary until we find the right formula before we move on to something else. 

 

Although they may not be visible to players, there are many other things happening internally  that have already proven to improve our releases. First and foremost, our internal release process is undergoing a revamp, based on the learnings from our past launches. We’ve allotted more time for QA than we used to, and we will postpone a release if we think it’s not ready (as we did  with the 0.24 update.) These new processes are still being refined, but we’re seeing improvements already.

 

We remain steadfast in our promise to deliver the best game possible. We feel confident that the changes we’re making now to our processes are a big step toward making that an attainable goal. 

Ready to discuss part 1? Click here.
 

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