Battlestar Galactica Online - Development Blog 28 - "Find the Balance"
1 September 2015
The server merge took place a few weeks ago and so we want to give you an update on the results. Also about Release 52 which has been focused on post-merge cleanups and a Unity Upgrade. As this release might not be as satisfying for a lot of you, we’ll also talk about upcoming changes, including details on the US provider.
- Server Merge Retrospective
- Release 52
- Upcoming Releases (incl. tournaments & ship balancing)
- US Provider Switch.
Server Merge RetrospectiveEdit
First of all, a short review on the process: July, last year, the team constellation changed. Afterwards, we discussed one of your biggest concerns – the population balance. Back then we checked several possibilities and came up with a long term strategy to improve maintainability and future scalability for Battlestar Galactica Online.
The multiple instance approach wasn’t in line with these plans, so we decided to continue with the server merge project, which was originally planned to take around 3 months. These plans were fully defined in September 2014, but had to be delayed for quite some time. The first big obstacle was extending the license. Due to the development history, it took almost three months to get an agreement on the new contract, which was fundamental in justifying a very high investment in new hardware.
Secondly, there were internal communication issues that lead to a delay in ordering the hardware, though this was ordering process which could have been finally sorted out in April. Without the hardware, only basic preparations could have been made, so the lion’s share of the work started after the hardware was delivered. From that point on, we moved back to the original “timeline”, only that we started far later than anticipated.
It’s actually the first merge that has ever been done at BP and lots of discussions had to be made to mitigate all risks. Many departments will benefit from this procedure and it will help to tackle bigger milestones in future.
We really appreciate your patience and support during this time. There is nothing else to add besides a big THANK YOU from the entire BSGO team.
Server Merge ResultsEdit
Now we’ll dig a little deeper into some first effects, especially from a faction balance point of view. Earlier this year it was quite obvious that there were far fewer Cylons than Colonials in terms of the player base. The dynamic bonus system we implemented for new players improved the balance. Entering the merge, factions were close to equally balanced with a few exceptions, especially in high and low level ranges.
Let’s start by looking at the US server:
Seeing the overall balance (only active users are measured in the following statistics), both factions are pretty close percentage-wise, with a slight advantage for Colonials. On the other hand, Cylons have a slight advantage in the high level range (level 200-255). We’ve noticed both of these phenomena already on most of the former servers.
The reason for the low-level imbalance is that the Colonials will always be considered the good guys because of the TV-show, which leads to players favoring this faction, even though there’s no other incentive to join. Therefore, we increased the bonus for joining the Cylons once again.
The second reason is game-related, but also easily explained. Based on the “suppression” Cylons had for a long time on most of the smaller servers, they did two things – they spent to advance more on average and they communicated better to work as a team, which the Colonials didn’t really had to do given the sheer volume of players in that faction.
A detailed look at all levels also provides an overview of the differences per level. We see many spikes in the high level areas in favor of Cylons, but also great advantages for the humans in the lower levels which is also the level region where most of the players are settled.
Let’s have a look at the European server which shows similar results. Throughout the day, Cylons seem to dominate the sector control during the day, even though the majority of users on this server are Colonials.
Right after the merge, the Cylon to Colonial ratio was around 45% to 55%. It was slightly more imbalanced after the latest switch, although it improved in the high level segment. Since Cylons dominated the server, we decided to hand over the starter bonuses to Colonials.
This, but also the fact that Cylons used all their switches from the second switch already, result in the current balance.
The balance per level for EU is actually almost the same as for the US server, but due to higher population in general spikes are less severe in comparison.
The second set of faction switches is still running in an attempt to tackle the imbalances per level segment. On the EU server, all Cylon switches were already used in this run, while many Colonial switches are still open to use. For the US server there are a few switches for Cylons left, but also many open switches for humans.
We always try to open up switches for both sides, but in this case it had a temporary negative impact as one side used their chances much faster.
But it’s a dynamic environment and the switches are still open and also others will follow in future.
What other results do we face from the merge? The new website definitely helped to get new players in. We’re also close to finishing the new in-game trailer, which will be shared with partners to promote the game.
We’ve also seen many players that returned after a long absence and gave the merge a try, but we also expect many of them to temporarily lose interest again, as many changes need to follow the merge.
The maintainability improved a lot, as we only have to focus on two servers, but there is still a lot of effort to get back to regular content development. Therefore, we’ll give you an update on R52 and further steps.
Release 52 – A New UnityEdit
End of August, Release 52 has hit the live servers. A lot of graphics issues related to the Unity Upgrade have been found by the beta testers and fixed before the update went live.
In February, Unity 5 was released. Back then it wasn’t stable enough to switch the game to the new version, but now it is. Therefore, we have upgraded from Unity 4.6.6 to Unity 5.1.3 to make use of all previous improvements and future updates.
The test server results looked promising and we also expect more stability on the live servers once the issues from the release day have been fixed.
A new logging feature offered by Unity 5 will track errors and exceptions that happen on the live servers including technical reports. This way we might be able to tackle several causes for crashes early and improve stability further.
But the Unity upgrade isn’t everything, R52 also contained several clean ups from the server merge and feature releases, as well as a couple of bug fixes and smaller improvements.
We’ve also established a new way of measuring bug reports internally and are working on a long term strategy to reduce the overall bug count to improve the gaming experience.
As stated in the patch notes, there are some bigger game changes that won’t make this release, but we don’t want you to leave with those notes, without mentioning the next steps.
The team is working on three bigger things right now: a new tutorial, a tournament relaunch and the ship balancing.
The new tutorial has been in discussion for a longer period of time and is one of the agreements we’ve also made with our IP holders, as the current one doesn’t meet the quality standard we’re looking for.
The biggest chunk is already built and we’re currently performing the first internal tests to fine-tune the experience and make sure the quality meets our standards. We will also perform external focus group tests later on.
The tournaments have been an important aspect of the regular business, but many players weren’t happy with the way they worked. Therefore, we only performed one test tournament after the merge and decided afterwards to freeze them before having implemented necessary changes for a relaunch.
Main changes will be made to the ranking and reward system. Instead of a global ranking list with 50 players getting rewarded, we’ll give each level bracket an individual ranking, as well as individual rewards.
This way, each player will have full control over the prize he/she will receive in the end and no competitors in sectors that can’t be challenged.
We’re also considering removing stealth ships from the strike tournament as the majority of players voted for this in the respective poll. A few other changes should make the tournaments more fun.
There are also new tournament modes planned, giving stealth ships and line ships another place and possibility to define their top gun.
Last but not least, we’ve definitely planned to release the first aspects of ship rebalancing in R53. Contrary to the latest blog, we’re currently considering spreading the new systems from only the interceptor escort to multiple ships, but will finally decide this in the process. Besides, we won’t just focus on the carrier balance in the game, but also the concerns about stealth ships and some others as well.
We’re sure the first beta tests will lead to more concrete results and also define the release strategy.
Wing design has also successfully reached the first revision stage. It has been reviewed and is currently being adjusted and fine-tuned.
Once the topics above are completed, full production for one of the biggest content updates can start.
With the recent changes to Chrome and the Edge Browser, accessibility will become a tough topic for BSGO in the next few months.
We are still in negotiations with Universal about the recent challenges in the browser universe and aim for a license extension soon that will enable us to build a client version in future. We’ll let you know how the negotiations go.
US Provider SwitchEdit
Our IT department has recently signed the deal for our new US local provider. This happened later than expected, but it is definitely happening. From March, 2016 we’ll be connected to a new network and BSGO will be the first project being moved to the new connection. This way, we hope to have the put a stop to weird redirects, which mainly occur in peak times on the US server. Moreover, we expect better stability and service, as the new partner is a bigger international player in the market.
We apologize for the delay, but we were bound to the restrictions of the former contract and unable to expedite the process any further.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog update and I look forward chatting with you again soon.
Thanks for your patience and continued support of BSGO,