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Thread: Alpha not Beta

  1. #1
    Arcane Candidate
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    Alpha not Beta

    I played MoM when it first came out and it is still the best 4X game I have ever played and I'm probably older than any two of you put together. My first impression is that this is the best attempt I have seen at capturing the essence of MoM. I have played Elemental and it's variations, I've played all 3 Age of Wonders. They never really captured it. This game looks to be as described, the true successor to MoM. I even wrote a wizard editor for MoM

    Having said that, I have also been a software developer for nearly 40 years and this game is nowhere near beta. Any program at beta should be fully functional and the mechanics should be complete. I'm not worried about the number of races, units or spells; that is fair game for late beta, although it must appear in beta before release so that errors can be found and addressed before final release. What is far more worrying is that there are two many things happening which make it impossible to complete a game. Betas should be stable and functionally complete and this game is not yet there and I really want it to be. The fault is not the developers. They do the best they can but they do not make these decisions. I can understand that the management want to get a return on their investment. But in the end, the quality of the software will determine its success. Seriously buggy software never succeeds.

    I strongly suspect that there are major architectural issues somewhere. Several things point to this. Firstly, the settings cannot be changed during gameplay yet it works on startup. This implies that settings changes will break the game. If that is the case, the architecture is wrong. The ability to change settings has to incorporated from the ground up or it will never work properly. You cannot just wedge it in afterwards and expect that it will be okay. The next is that I am currently unable to attack any neutrals, either cities or units. I try to move an army onto a square which is either a captured city or an army of independents and it ignores me. Worse, sometimes it moves me to an adjacent hex. This again points to serious issues or at least issues that should have been fully resolved before even going to alpha, let alone beta. I have hit these sort of problems in my own code, but always before it even got to QA. Another issue is that closing a game, whether by loading a new game or go to the main menu, seems to generate a lot of null reference exceptions. I can understand how it could happen, but it needs to be sorted before going to beta. I am a C++ programmer and a null pointer would crash any code I wrote and such issues are of high importance. If they are happening in bulk, there is a serious issue. From experience, I know that this generally results from having poor architecture. Code can always be fixed, but if the architecture is wrong the side effects are difficult to control.

    The user interface also has serious flaws. I've tried both the MoM and RTS styles and I have found neither to be intuitive. Both result in unexpected and sometimes unwanted behaviour which is difficult to predict. While in some ways finding these problems is exactly what a beta is for, I am amazed that no-one in QA has reported this. Well maybe they have but they have been told that its not a priority. Both are possibilities are disturbing.

    To be truly at beta there should be a working in-game manual. It need not be complete, but it should have all the basics. When I select an army, I should be able to get details about each unit somehow, probably from a right click, but this information is unavailable. This data needs to be there now so that beta testing can be done to see if the data is correct and complete. This cannot be done while it is not there.

    I realise that this post may seem very negative, but it is intended to be constructive criticism. I so want this game to succeed. I'd love to help in any way I could. I really believe that the project that has been undertaken has huge merit but please don't pretend that we're in beta. I'm happy to continue to do alpha testing, but it is still really only in alpha. Beta is still some ways off.

  2. #2
    Developer
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    Thank you for your input.

    Settings cannot be changed during gameplay because we don't have a gui for that yet.
    All null references when returning to main menu are harmless - fixing them has very low priority for now.
    Problems with attacking neutrals look very strange - we'll take a look.

    You can view details on selected unit by double clicking on it's portrait - this should be added to tutorial.

  3. #3
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    I must admit that I felt the same. The first time I was playing with high men and the path finding on the map was completely broken. My first "army" went on the ocean (remember high men) while I tried to move inwards and then I couldn't get it back. The second one never reaches it's target field but was walking arround and sometimes in completely opposite directions. So I had to stop this game and start a new one. This time draconiens where the path-finding was better but now I lost my first army because I could not flee in fight (was just not working) and in the last update all tooltips are empty. The I waited for doom drakes and was hung in an endless loop because one doom drake could not really reach the unit I wanted to attack and then ended in endless walking sound.

    In general I feel that the units are much to big on the map and the zoom level is much to close. I wish I could zoom out more.

    I really really hope that the game will run smooth at the end as I'm also long time waiting for a good MoM successor.

  4. #4
    Mage of the Inner Tower War Troll's Avatar
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    I'd be worried if we were two months away from release but fact is it's going to be February at the earliest and the guys at WI are working 23 hours a day (probably).

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by War Troll View Post
    I'd be worried if we were two months away from release but fact is it's going to be February at the earliest and the guys at WI are working 23 hours a day (probably).
    I hope they're NOT working 23 hours a day. Once you start working more than 8 to 10 hours a day the error rate creeps up and you can actually wind up going backwards. This is especially true if you do it for long periods. Developers are human beings and should be treated with respect.

  6. #6
    Mage of the Inner Tower War Troll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellinelle View Post
    I hope they're NOT working 23 hours a day. Once you start working more than 8 to 10 hours a day the error rate creeps up and you can actually wind up going backwards. This is especially true if you do it for long periods. Developers are human beings and should be treated with respect.
    Well I was joking but according to Aaron they're working 16 hours a day... but I assume that's determined by international timezones with some healthy overlap!

  7. #7
    Acolyte AlBQuirky's Avatar
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    I kind of feel the same way as Ellinelle. This is barely in an alpha state, nowhere near beta. I have yet to get past the first turn before it either locks up (waiting a computer turn) or sent into an endless loop (because I chose to play islands and units can not move off the island, so the "Move Units" message keeps me from "end turn").

    Some of the "hover help" is missing from the city interface. What are the units for population under the farmers? Farmers and Scholars also has no "hover help."

    Also, from the time I start a game I have a few (2-3) "null" messages in my development box at the bottom.

    While I am excited to see and play the game, I would actually like to PLAY the game. Take your time. Get it off of Steam. Work on it some more. I never signed up for the alpha and beta tests for this very reason (unplayable). I have waited 20+ years for an updated MoM. I can wait a year or two more

    This is not a "beta state" game.
    Last edited by AlBQuirky; 09-26-2014 at 04:58 AM. Reason: typos
    - Al

  8. #8
    Neophyte Sorcerer
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    Meh. I think I've had one game go past turn 100 (and not by much), and only a handful make it past the 60s. The game is not in a fully playable state. I can't say I terribly much care. Getting to see the guts (gory and bloody as they may currently be) is exciting enough to me, and I log as much (limited) time as I can as it is. Sometimes that's only half an hour in a given day, sometimes that's a couple hours a week. Sometimes all that waiting to find time to play ends up resulting in a crash just as a given game starts to get going. I'll be upset after an official launch if I have the problems I do now, but as it stands, for a late alpha/early beta, I couldn't care less. The way I see it, if I'm not breaking it and making it cry, then I'm not trying hard enough.

    Now, I'll grant that, currently, one doesn't have to try very hard at all. Again, for me, no biggie. I'm content knowing that what I paid for will work eventually, and I get the added bonus of tinkering with it while it's being put together, which also happens to be interesting to me.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlBQuirky View Post
    I kind of feel the same way as Ellinelle. This is barely in an alpha state, nowhere near beta. I have yet to get past the first turn before it either locks up (waiting a computer turn) or sent into an endless loop (because I chose to play islands and units can not move off the island, so the "Move Units" message keeps me from "end turn").

    Some of the "hover help" is missing from the city interface. What are the units for population under the farmers? Farmers and Scholars also has no "hover help."

    Also, from the time I start a game I have a few (2-3) "null" messages in my development box at the bottom.

    While I am excited to see and play the game, I would actually like to PLAY the game. Take your time. Get it off of Steam. Work on it some more. I never signed up for the alpha and beta tests for this very reason (unplayable). I have waited 20+ years for an updated MoM. I can wait a year or two more

    This is not a "beta state" game.
    i can play for hundreds of turns without problems, did i get some gamebreaking bugs sometimes and have to reload? yes of course, but nothing that could stop me from continuing the game.

    this is beta or almost beta because it is ALMOST feature complete, just the heroe mechanic is missing. everything else is duo to bugs, polishment and optimization which is expected from a beta. if you don't want a buggy game which is still not content complete (content is not feature, fyi) then why did you jump into the early access version is a mystery for me.

    why should they get it off steam? they didn't trick you in buying a complete game, there were huge and bolded letters saying "early access", that this is by no means a finished game.

    the problems you encounter come from different hardware and software setups, so putting it off from steam would be counter-productive because the more people play it and actually report the errors the more get fixed and the quicker it get fixed.

    i really don't get people who buy into early access games and expect a 99.9% completed game. as i was purchasing this game some days ago i was fully aware that this might not fully work and i would encounter bugs wich would make it impossible to play a sesson from start to finish.

  10. #10
    Thanks for the feedback guys!

    I'm happy to say that we're mainly back to normal working hours and that the last few patches have greatly reduced the number of bugs we have.

    And, yes, the game is very nearly feature complete. We're going to continue fixing, balancing, and polishing things over the coming months, of course. However, the fact is that most of the major mechanics are in place.
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