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Additional Changes to Antilia's Development

Friday, December 7, 2012 4:09pm
jeff
Lead Developer
In my previous post, I mentioned that we had identified five areas that Antilia currently needs some improvement in, and I discussed three of those areas: stability & performance, improving the new player experience, and improving the quality of Antilia's gameplay. In this post, I'd like to discuss the other two aspects we identified where Antilia needs improvement:

Improving Our Development and Testing Cycle


In 2012, I never found a good timeline for developing, testing, and releasing new versions of the game. The closest I believe we had to a regular development schedule was around August-October, which looked like this:
  • Monday: Plan new Features
  • Tuesday - Thursday: Development
  • Friday: Polish features for release, disable incomplete systems, create release build.
  • Saturday-Sunday: Publish the release, test the new features on the public server.
I haven't heard of many development teams that had this aggressive of a development cycle, obviously for good reason. This kind of a schedule is good for getting a lot of content out the door, but not so good when it comes to getting it into the hands of players in a bug-free, balanced, well-performing way. Before we can even think about terms like "beta" Antilia's releases need to start coming out the door with a consistently high measure of quality.

With the considerable amount of improvements we have planned and the long list of bugs that have accumulated over 2012, starting this month I'm going to reduce the amount of public tests, and start employing organized developer regression testing on the project.

A Change to Alpha Testing


Starting this month, we're going to adopt a schedule that will enable us to give all aspects of development their proper attention - Planning, development, pre-release testing, and debugging. I am going to start separating "testing" from "playing" at this point as well - with the public server becoming the "play" server. While this transition is underway, server uptime will be limited to special social events.

I am tremendously thankful to the community for the effort it has put into helping us test over the past 12 months - thanks to these tests Antilia made great strides in 2012.

We are planning our next social event for December 31 - for the fireworks, of course.

Achieving Self-Sustainability


One thing I don't blog about often is exactly how Antilia's development is funded. While previous efforts to prepare Antilia for potential publishing deals have resulted in some nice-looking "official" sites like Right Brain Games - the industry has changed a lot in the past 3 years. By any real measure, Antilia is really a hobby project. It is something that I do because I really want to do it. Like a lot of hobbies, decisions are made not based on any particular business plan - but because it feels right for my art, and that's generally the way the other volunteer developers feel as well.

In other words - Antilia exists by what the volunteer developers and I put into it - primarily, our time. We don't let a lack of funds get in the way of our art - if we don't have the money for something, we find a way to do it ourselves. By doing so, over the years we've gotten better at doing quite a few things. Through good times and bad, Antilia exists because we put our time into it, just like anyone who works on a hobby or a piece of art for their own sake. As much as I would love for as many people as possible to enjoy Antilia - as far as I am concerned, it isn't having 100, or 1,000, or 100,000 players that makes Antilia a success. The success for me is in conquering all these obstacles and having a depth of game development experience few have. How many people can say "Yes, I designed and implemented my own mmorpg?"

That said, as we make changes to Antilia so that it is more polished, more fun, easier to pick up by new users, and has more content... at some point Antilia is likely to start costing us more to run than I can afford with my consulting jobs. If that does happen, and I hope it does - we will need to honestly consider how we are going to make Antilia self-sustaining... how Antilia can afford its own costs. It's a good time, I think, to start having some more serious discussions about these possibilities - which I will continue in the forum post for this entry, linked below:

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