Battlestar Galactica Online - Development Blog 26 - Live Refactoring
13 May 2015
The server merge is getting closer and it’s time for a blog update. There have been a lot of technical challenges for the project this year, so we want to mention some key issues, our plans to fix them and, of course, some new features we’re working on. At the end of this blog you’ll also get an update on “The Plan” for the second half of this year.
Today’s blog will be about:
- Release 51: Server Merge
- Performance-Revision 3D Map
- Tech Stability Issues (Follow Up) – US Provider Switch
- The future of Unity within Chrome and Firefox
- R51: What else to expect
- “The Plan” - Update
Release 51: Server MergeEdit
The hardware has been successfully delivered to our data centers. IT currently is setting up the servers with all the fundamental services needed within the BP structure. The BSGO team will get access to the servers in roughly two weeks.
From that point on, we will introduce several procedures to ensure high quality merges. More specifically, this means that we’ll run several load tests on the new hardware to make sure that the server can handle all players properly. We already ran on rented hardware at the end of last year before ordering machines of our own, but we want verify the results.
Soon after that, we’ll move the current Sagittarian population to the new hardware to get the first results with live operations. The new website is also making great progress, but requires some more time to implement all internal and external services. For now the regular services like registration, language selection, login and server selection are already accessible.
The team is currently shaping the key visuals, as well as the content information, provided on this new page. Aside from that, we’re working on the partner integration (for additional promotion partners), as well as the marketing requirements, which are necessary to give the game a competitive platform in the web (e.g. in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing).
Additional interfaces for the voucher tool, as well as payment, need to be implemented. The connection to the new account system (multiple accounts on one server) has to be restructured, which will include adapting the support and account management tools. This will ensure that support can reproduce and address customer reports.
While the website and additional services get finished, we’ll also run a couple of test runs with a copy of current player data to make sure every account gets moved smoothly and without any issues to the new mega server. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to run the same tests on Troy, but there will be some content in release 51 that might be tested by beta testers.
As you can see, there is still plenty to do. Meanwhile, you’re all wondering when these updates will be released; however, it’s very difficult for us to give a definite date because of internal and external processes, but our current estimate is to release at the end of June – mid-July.
We want to give the new hardware enough time to get established in our network and we want to make sure the merge doesn’t jeopardize any accounts or server data.
Performance-Revision 3D MapEdit
We’ve received some reports that players have experienced performance drops since the 3D map release.
We’ve done a performance review and actually found one issue, as there have been Unity animation components that caused load on the CPU, even in a disabled state with the map being closed.
We’ll take care of this with a background fix next week. For those who experienced any issue in those regards, please provide feedback in the forums as to whether the issues have been fixed. Also, please tell us if the issues persist, including the necessary steps involved in reproducing the issue.
Tech Stability Issues (Follow Up) – US Provider SwitchEdit
We’ve already talked about this topic a couple of times. After several attempts to find the source on our side, we encountered some issues that might be caused by our US provider. We contacted them, but were not able to come up with an adequate solution. After meeting with IT this week, we’ve decided to move on to a larger, more international provider.
Another reason we decided to switch is that our new provider can offer a better DDoS protection system.
IT is currently checking the earliest possible date to switch to the new provider. In the worst case, it might happen at the end of the year due to contract restrictions. Regardless, we’re making progress. We’re hoping the switch will take care of the connectivity issues in the US. We’ll keep you in the loop, in the meantime.
The future of Unity within Chrome and FirefoxEdit
In April, Google disabled the Unity Webplayer plugin in Chrome. Players have to activate the NPAPI manually to play Unity games within Google Chrome. But that’s only the first step, as Google plans to remove the Unity Plugin entirely in August/September. Firefox is supposed to follow this procedure next year.
Unity offers an early WebGL version that is not going to be blocked, but it doesn’t actually fulfill the criteria and quality level for our game. There may come a point that the WebGL version is more compatible, but we don’t expect that to happen soon; therefore, we’re thinking about building a client version for BSGO.
Unfortunately, our license is limited to a browser game, but to offer a tool that keeps BSGO accessible to a broad audience, we’re actually in talks with Universal about a license upgrade.
We don’t know about other browsers’ plans yet and we also don’t plan to remove the option to play BSGO in the browser; in other words, the client wouldn’t be a replacement, but an additional way to play BSGO.
But as long as we’re still in negotiations with Universal, we cannot build a client version.
R51: What else to expectEdit
In addition to the merge, we are planning a few additions in release 51. First of all, we’ll need more space, so we’re adding three sectors in the center of the galaxy map. We’re actually looking into designing larger maps, with different alignments of elements. We’re planning on moving Scar into one of the new sectors and “Kat” is scheduled to make an appearance – Scar needs a worthy opponent, after all. The merge itself will come up with the currently planned changes, like the new character adaptation menu. Accessible via a new HUD option, players will be able to adapt their character appearance, their pilot name, as well as their faction.
The faction switch option will stay in the game permanently, but will be activated on a temporary basis with certain criteria. So not everyone will be able to switch at any point in time. Once used, faction switch and name change will be blocked for 30 days.
Long term, we’re planning to improve the faction balancing step-by-step and lower the limitations for switching, if we see positive results.
“The Plan” - UpdateEdit
Earlier this year we presented a rough roadmap for the first months of 2015. Now we would like to give you an update on this and talk about some stuff that is supposed to appear after the merge.
For a few weeks, we have been facing some issues with an update that has been done to the BP payment system. Their servers are run by a different technology, which means that their servers do not recognize the BSGO Happy Hours within the first 4 minutes, so some bookings are missing the Happy Hour bonus. We’ll start working soon on a new internal tool that should solve this issue. If you get affected by this bug, contact support, they’ll check the time of your booking, compare it with our event schedule, and compensate you in case a HH was running.
There is also another technical issue affecting all BP products – our chat tool. The current chat tool offers some features and services for all games to all moderators to aid communication.
This tool is actually quite old and doesn’t meet today’s standards for chat tools. We’re currently determining the requirements for the new chat tool with all other game teams, before the company starts improving the tool. After updating the website, game entry, and servers, we’ll also revise the current tutorial. Part of our negotiations with Universal, include being able to update the tutorial to improve players’ first impression of BSGO. We’ve already had some preliminary, internal tests. That, paired with your feedback from the forums, should help us improve the tutorial greatly.
Another feature that has been in development for quite some time, is the new assignment system. It still needs improvement and has been neglected since we started planning the server merge, but it is still on the roadmap. With the new assignment system, you will have the opportunity to accept new assignments, instead of the same daily assignments over and over again. Additional to new daily assignments, we’re also planning to release weekly and monthly assignments.
The wing redesign is another big, new feature on the roadmap. It’s currently in an early design stage, so we can’t go into too much detail. But from implementing wing boards for better hiring promotion, to introducing a special wing shop, where you can get special bonuses, as well as other features that would allow wings to work together to expand their influence and effectiveness. We’re also planning group activities, like wing assignments.
As already mentioned in the previous blogs, the new loot/contribution system also offers some new mechanics we can use for improving other features, such as the tournament ranking calculations. We are also planning on improving the Top Gun Battle, to avoid unwanted grouping, but also to improve the experience in general. The contribution system will allow us to identify players acting together and penalize those with point reductions or disqualifications.
Last, but not least, I want to talk about ship balancing, which has been a major issue. We know this topic should have been tackled already, but we had to put it on the backburner to properly deal with the server merge. The current process of BSGO can be described as “live refactoring” which brings up a lot of technical and individual challenges, and, especially this year, has brought up a couple of things we weren’t prepared for. But once the technical base is set (and we’re getting closer and closer to that), we plan to go back to smaller, faster, content-related releases, which will benefit a lot from the clean-up we are doing upfront. Besides the faction balance, the ship balance will have top priority after the server merge. The features mentioned above will run simultaneous to or after those major fixes.
The ship balancing will happen in iterative cycles on the test and live servers, ship-by-ship.
Later this year, we also plan to have a closer look at the general progression system, including XP progression, as well as the skill system and a small crafting system. Expect further updates on those in the future.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog update and I look forward to chatting with you again soon. Thanks for your patience and continued support of BSGO,