Post build review

With 0.986b making the rounds, I've decided to take stock of my situation, and see what needs the most attention next. I'm pretty sure more story will feature in the next build, so I'm mostly looking at what else might need work.

For most of the day, I was triaging my bug/feature list. There are some 500 items on it, and so far, there's an average effort of about 3-6 hours of work for each. There are about 60 work days between now and mid July (my target finish date), or 480-600 working hours, depending on whether I work 8 or 10-hour days.

Doing the math, that probably means I only have time for 100-200 items on that list. Or roughly 1 in every 4.

This doesn't account for any time spent working on story, which based on past experience, is about 1-2 weeks per major encounter (like the ATN). It also doesn't account for time spent working on new bugs that arise, answering emails and forum posts, and administrivia (contracts, vendors, build uploads).

This is purely back-of-the-napkin math, but we may be looking at more like 50-100 items from that list, if I want to do 2 more major encounters. In other words, I may be entering a mode now where I have to realistically ignore 80-90% of remaining wishlist items and bugs.

I'm going to have to get pretty selective.

It bothers me to leave so much on the cutting room floor, as there are way more than 50-100 ideas worth putting into the game. Of course, there's way more than 2 more major encounters worth adding, as well. Way more everything, if I'm being honest.

On the other hand, Flash is almost bursting at the seams trying to fit all the crap I've loaded into it. The Linux Flash projector grows more outdated each day. Modding is still a pipe dream. I'm really ready to move on to a more powerful system.

Why am I saying this? Well, partially to admit to myself I have to set reasonable goals. I just did these calculations now, after a day of estimating and prioritizing tasks. This is the first hard, cold look I've had at the numbers in a while. And there's way less I can realistically do by this summer than I hoped.

Tomorrow is going to be a writing day. Just me, a notebook, and some unhealthy amounts of coffee. I'm going to see if I can map out my expectations for these remaining 2 encounters, and make the most of them.

Monday, I'm taking the day off. Similar to what I did with the 0.985b launch, I worked mostly 10-hour days for a few weeks in a row leading up to the build, so a long weekend after the build will help refresh me for the next round.

After that? Bunker down and get some more plot added, and figure out which 50 bug fixes and features I want to add the most.

It's going to be a grueling dash to the finish line.

Comments

Nickboom's picture
Nickboom

So after you finish up with NeoScavenger how about you make a NeoScavenger 2 (Better name pending) that is on a new engine and is pure amazing in game form :D

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Nymall's picture
Nymall

I've got to ask, and I hate to be the bad guy, but from buying in the beta I do have some concerns:

Is development of NEO Scavenger stopping after the next release? IE, other then critical bugs, Mid July is the end? Also, from the sounds of it you've completely given up on modding, or even at worst exposing the XML for modders. Is this true?

I can understand a change in priorities, but the end all be all most modding communities pay for themselves for extending game lifetimes. Good examples of this are Trancendence and Dwarf Fortress, both games that still have healthy modding communities years after the last official release.

Parse error: Syntax error, unexpected '$pants'...

Scavenger's picture
Scavenger

Not the developer, but judging by Dan's posts and discussions in the past I am pretty sure that what is meant is that it is last phase of development, with estimated 'deadline' in July, but that's more not much more than that - estimation.

Between now and July there will be new versions, but in July we may expect feature freeze - the most important things will be finished and adjusted, some of the stuff we already have may be somewhat expanded but there won't be completely new mechanics, systems, new big locations et cetera coming in.

Personally, regarding choosing new features, I'd suggest spending a day going through several pages of suggestion forum threads and checking out discussions - there is a certain number of things mentioned regularly (beside the usual 'more clothes/weapons/food/gadgets/events' which also could be looked at), from big features (like ability to repair some pants/simpler equipment or ability to fish) to relatively small (like adding differently-colored versions of some clothes by just putting a color filter on a bunch of sprites and putting them back into the game as a different piece of clothing; or quivers) which popularity of could be taken into consideration.

matsy's picture
matsy

A sad reality that all good things will, and have to come to an end.

Will be interesting to see the road map you come up with, and the stuff we have to llook forward to!

Regarding @Nymall's comments around modding, I would imagine having to refactor the code to be able to load up items/characters as XML or what ever format Flash allows (does it?) would take some time as I'm assuming it is all currently hard coded.

But if it the community were able to develop certain amount of content for the game such as items (food, weapons, clothing), which by @Scavenger's point, is nearly asked for in every other thread. You could concentrate on developing the core features, and when it came to having to fill out encounters, and factions with items you could request the community to create these...

That said it, it is all about Dan's vision of the game!

Kaaven's picture
Kaaven

I, for once, feel kind of excited by that news. The game was being slowed down by the Flash format for a long time, with the answer to every second cool user request being: "That's a great idea, but sadly Flash wont handle that" - it simply cannot handle proper saving or proper modding. Not to mention it being discontinued by Adobe, and ageing rapidly with every passing day.

From my perspective, of someone who reads all the news and most of the posts/discussions, it becomes more and more clear that the current game is reaching it's limits. Which is great - the game is already worth many times more than it's price, and I am sure that with several months of additions and polish, it will become a great hit, allowing Dan to make next game even better (and free from the restraints of the dying Adobe products).


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Malacodor's picture
Malacodor

What Kaaven says. The technology NEO Scavenger is built on is a dead-end road. Spending much time to allow modding without even knowing if it will ever work properly is simply a waste. This time is better invested in a sequel with guaranteed modding support I'd say.

If I remember correctly, random encounters are distributed all over the map. My maps usually show big circles around the cryo facility and DMC and beelines between the two and between DMC and the hidden lake (I haven't played the latest versions, though). Having quests which force players to explore more parts of the map would automatically make them run into more random encounters. This would effectively add content without actually adding anything.

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dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

Hey Guys!

Sorry if I sounded overly melodramatic in this post. I was just realizing the mismatch between my task list and remaining time, so it was a bit of a wake-up call for me.

@Nymall, I think Scavenger answered this pretty accurately, but I'll expand on it a bit.

There will likely be a few more builds of the game between now and July, so the next one shouldn't be the last. (E.g. usually there's about 1-2 per month) Also, I plan on spending at least a little post-launch time on support and critical things I missed. What I was saying is that I have to be more selective about new features and content from now on.

As for modding, you don't have to convince me that modding is good. I'm with you there :) If I can find a way to support it without rewriting the entire game, I'm all for it. The trouble is that Flash isn't very cooperative in this department (loading external files). It is super locked-down for security reasons, mainly so malicious apps can't access your hard drive. The unfortunate side-effect is that modding is similarly locked-down.

That said, there's one long shot I may try which could enable loading of files from the web or a local server. However, if Flash blocks that for security reasons (which is likely), there isn't much I can do. So I've been cautious about promising something that's impossible.

The XML disappearing in this build, on the other hand, was more accident than intent. I think packaging the game as Flash v13 instead of Flash v11.2 broke the exposed XML data. Which is unfortunate, because I think v13 has more performance fixes in it. I'm not sure if anyone's noticed performance fixes yet, though, so maybe it'll be safe to go back to v11.2.

Re: the future, I'm excited too! NEO Scavenger has been more of a success than I imagined, so I think I have a good reason to continue development of that universe. I want to tell other stories in it, expand the world, and hopefully make a new version that people can tell their own stories with.

Plus, I have other games I may sneak in from time to time :)

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games