100! It’s hard to believe, but Michi and I have been working on this project for about 100 weeks now and we’ve written a development log in each one of them. I’m not sure which one of the two is the bigger achievement, but we’re proud either way. The timing couldn’t be any better for such a milestone either: We just wrapped up our very first alpha test and we are very happy with the results. Now we are hard at work to get everything ready for the next round of tests!
Alpha Test #1: Early Conclusions
We already briefly discussed early results of our first round of alpha tests last week. Now that it’s officially over and we’ve collected more and final feedback, we can start to draw early conclusions.
First and foremost, we are still quite surprised by how well the overall system performed. To be honest, we expected for things to fall apart rather quickly, with people discovering major game-breaking problems or blocking bugs that would keep players from accessing the game. Except for one such bug, everything went surprisingly smoothly, though. So here I am, hoping that the many months of work we put into the basic systems have actually paid off and were not a classic case of over-engineering. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
In the meantime, this unexpected lack of major problems meant that people could actually play the game the way it was intended to. Since this very first test was primarily designed to figure out whether the features work at all but not to test their balancing, the testers were able to build massive bases within just a few days, thereby becoming completely self-sufficient without actually having to spend any noticeable amount of their starting capital. Besides the obvious implications for future balancing work, this provided us with valuable feedback on the UI and how it works with large production facilities. Far earlier than we could have hoped.
Currently in progress
We are now working at full steam on working as much of the feedback we received into the game as possible. Lots of minor things have already been fixed or addressed and hardly a day of the test phase has passed without the servers receiving several patches.
With the first tests wrapped up, we are now starting to tackle bigger topics in preparation for round #2: I am very busy redesigning the majority of the production interface to make it easier to use and to cope with large production lines. This has been one of the major pain points reported by our most eager testers and while we do not anticipate these problems to affect players early in the final game, they would eventually come up after companies have grown for weeks or months. Once done, I might give you a brief video tour of how things work in the new design.
Meanwhile, Michi is hard at work improving one of the most crucial steps for any beginner: Starting a base. So far, this function has been very unintuitive due to some…uhm…gaps in the game design concerning space and resource restrictions of planets. Due to this, the respective interface provided the mere foundation but no bells and whistles. This part of the game is now getting a major facelift with interesting new mechanics sprinkled in while we’re at it. More on this will definitely make up the better part of one or several of the upcoming development logs.
Last but not least, we are preparing new starting conditions for the next round of testing. While growth was effectively unrestricted in the first round due to the large amounts of equipment, materials and money players started with, the new conditions will swing things into the other extreme: Players will receive different “starting packages” and there will be no way for them to grow without trading and coordinating with other players. The perceived speed of the game will drop dramatically and we can’t wait to see how it will work out.
The road ahead
Things feel a lot different now: With actual players in the game and real feedback coming in, we’re finally seeing our vision come to life and so far we are more than happy with how things are going.
Michi has drawn up a comprehensive test schedule covering more or less the remainder of the year and we will try to start round #2 of the closed alpha test as quickly as possible. Each test is intended to run for about one to two weeks, although that’s a ballpark figure and the actual durations will obviously depend on the outcome of each round. If you want to be part of future tests, please make sure to drop your name in the hat on the forums so we can add you to our list. Once we feel confident enough to expand the group of testers from “friends & family” to a wider audience, you’ll hear from us!