Dragon Con(test)

Going to Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia this year?  So am I!  Well, a small part of it…

Want access to the Alpha AND going to Dragon Con?  Hmm… maybe we can work something out.

Here’s the deal:

I’ll be at Dragon Con Friday, from around lunch to dinner time, and then I’ll be watching the parade on Saturday.  During those times, if you happen to find me wandering around in my Eleven t-shirt, I’ll be giving the first 5 (or so) people access to the Alpha!

Already in the Alpha?  Still come and find me, I might be able to hook you up with something too (after the con).

I’ll update this post with a picture of the t-shirt before the con, and I’ll try to post some updates to twitter during the event (@ElevenKaiyon and @ElevenGiantsMMO).

OMG, OMG, OMG – What Will Your First Day Be Like in Game?

KaiyonAlatar graciously asked a few of the alpha testers to be guest bloggers to share some experiences from our point of view. Hope you enjoy our articles from the “other side”.

I have to say, I distinctly remember when one of the Alphateers entered the game for the first time, and I was chuckling with glee as they posted to global (and frankly was also shocked at the time that the game did not crash since global was still being a bit persnickety at the time). The global chat box was filled with OMG’s and Squee’s at the total excitement of this new player. I think I enjoyed it so much because it was it was exactly the way I felt the first time I entered Eleven, but I did not vocalize it to the group. Truth be told, it is how I feel whenever there is an update with new stuff for us to test; except now, I am trying to be a bit better at sharing it with the other players and developers (devs) in global (which, by the way, is much more stable now – the game has come a long way in a few months).

So to write this article, I pondered back to my first day in the game. I remember choking up as the loading screen displayed and I heard that familiar tune. First, I was floored that I was a second round draft pick in Jan 2015. Since I did not really know this dev team, I honestly did not think I would be chosen until maybe closed Beta at the earliest. Second, I still could not believe that the game was being rebuilt. Third, I was excited beyond words since in a few moments I was going to experience the game again.

While waiting for the game to load, I remembered the “’Two Years Past’ or ‘Welcome Home’” blog by KaiyonAlatar that talked about being able to “roam a single street”, “having a long way to go”, and “the most minimal of functions” when they allowed the original alpha testers into the game in Dec 2014. So I thought when I got into the game, I would just see Gregarious Grange and that would probably be it. Maybe, if we were super fortunate at this stage (only a month later), they might have all of Groddle Meadow rebuilt. I remember being a late Alpha tester for Glitch and all we had was Groddle, Ix, and Uralia. So, being in early Alpha for this rebuild, I was expecting that we would all be predominately running around the one street, and just happy to see the game working and having fun with the other testers. It would be a big bonus if we could interact with the various items in game, and huge if we could roam around all of Groddle Meadow. I was nervous because I did not want to be disappointed with my grand expectations.

Holy moly!! Did I completely underestimate the progress this dev team has made – silly me. I could not believe that most of the persistent part of Ur was available to us to run through – not just Gregarious Grange, but ALL of the main map and the Ilmenskie areas. WOW! And then I had my own first day OMG and Squee moments…

OMG, I could change streets, and explore most of Ur again!

OMG, I could water trees.

OMG, I could pet trees.

OMG, I could harvest trees.

Squee, there were cool sounds (some that I didn’t remember) when harvesting trees.

OMG, I could plant seeds in community plots.

OMG, I could dig for peat and scrape barnacles.

OMG, the vendors were around, and I could purchase things from them.

OMG, bags, bags and more bags…and toolboxes too!

Squee, I could jump!

OMG, skills.

OMG, upgrade cards.

Squee, I could make food and drinks!

OMG, mining worked too!

When I started, we were not able to collect quoins. Oh how they taunted us. Hanging there so pretty. We could jump, but it did not have any effect since “collisions” were not implemented yet.  Eventually with one of the updates, the quoins did not taunt us any longer, and we were able to interact with them, along with various other portals. It was amazing to see how many things were interconnected based on the way we interacted with them in the game.

Squee, I could jump for quoins again.

OMG, I could now jump into the Big Hole to Ix.

OMG, I could climb the ladder to Groddle and get into Groddle instead of being stopped at the top.

OMG, I could now jump into the snow storm and enter the Wintry Place.

OMG, the dust traps now worked…which meant…Squee we now had herb seeds!!

In the early days of testing, we did not have animals (so sad), and the devs would drop us resources in Gregarious Grange. There were piles of meat, milk, and bales of grain that had to be regularly dropped off so we could test out recipes. Boy, we hated bugging the devs for more stuff to be dropped off since we all knew they had more important things to do to get the game running. At one point, they provided us a tester tool and one of the menu choices was “items” which provided us a stack of that item (meat, milk, grain, emblems, fiber, etc) into our inventories. Finally, the devs no longer had to babysit us for our perpetual resource demands. Eventually, when animals were added to the game, it brought a whole new set of OMG’s and Squee’s.

OMG, I could pet piggies.

OMG, I could nibble piggies.

OMG, I got bacon as an alternate drop to meat from piggies.

Squee, I could squeeze chickens.

Whoa, I could butter up chickens (when did that happen?).

OMG, I could massage and milk butterflies.

Squee, I can pet the helikitties!

Aw, the helikitties purr when you pet them!

However, even though we had animals, we were not able to interact with them in the ways we were used to because we still had some issues with the skills trees. So, the developers provided the testers a special option on our tester tool to be able to complete formerly uncompleteable skills (long story for another blog post maybe). We are now able to learn the higher level animal skills, and even more OMG’s and Squee’s were introduced.

OMG, I could name a whole street of piggies after famous Bacons – Kevin, Sir Francis, Nathaniel (yes, that is usually me).

OMG, I could name the butterflies “Flutter By” again (guilty).

OMG, I could name the chickens evil names because they still will not incubate our eggs yet.

OMG, I can finally get snails by feeding metal to sloths!

Squee, the sloths spit snails again!

There is so much that works in the game now. I cannot really begin to list everything. I still marvel at all the things we CAN do. In just the past few months, so many more things are working than when I first got into the game. While there are still many things for the devs to implement, they have come a long way to piecing Ur back together again for all of us. It is a glorious sight to behold, and they have done an amazing job to get Eleven to where it is today.

But, I am just wondering, what do you think will be your big OMG or Squee when you get back into the game?

State of the Project Address v3.0

Even three point o-ier than before!

So, it’s been a long while since my last big post… Sorry about that.  Time to rectify away, though!

Since my last State of the Project post (way back in August of last year!?!) we’ve accomplished a whole lot!  Time for a list (in pseudo-chronological order)!

Vanity/Wardrobe

We rolled out our combined version of a Vanity/Wardrobe system.  While we haven’t hooked it up to the account system yet, we’ve got a solution for integrating it with the game in internal testing/review right now.  In the meantime, you can save/load your creations via a bit of text.  If you haven’t checked it out, you can find it here.

Housing

While housing (along with the associated streets and friend signposts) is set up and working, there’s some architectural and infrastructure stuff keeping it (and other instanced areas) from working in anything other than a test environment at the moment.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to get this rolled out, but we’ll just have to wait a bit while we work out some of the other kinks.

Pathfinding

CubiRacing

Our NPCs can move!  While we still have a few bugs to work out here and there, most of the NPCs are fully functional, though we don’t have foxes working yet.

Namerizing

Eleven Wardrobe Namerizer

Eleven Wardrobe Namerizer

We requested some help from our amazing community to provide new names/descriptions to the items in the wardrobe, since that data has been lost to us.  While we might have been able to simply dig around to find the lost info somewhere, we thought it might be a good opportunity to put our own (and some of your) personal touch on things.  It’s closed down at the moment, but keep your eyes out for other ways you can contribute in the future (we may even open this, or something similar, back up)!

Throwaway Server – Thrown Away!

That old Throwaway Server we were always talking about?  It’s no longer being actively used for development.  Instead, we’ve pushed the real thing up on GitHub along with a couple of other repositories.  Full disclosure though, there are still a couple of repositories we’re holding private for the moment that are necessary to run the game (if you want access to contribute, just send us a message from the info over on the Contact Us page.

Alpha Release

Eleven Logo

We finally managed to get things to a point where we could welcome people into both the forums (public) and the game (private).  We’re continually adding more people to our testing group as activity levels and system stability allow, and we’re making loads of progress in getting things ready for bigger audiences.  An unfortunate disclaimer though, we’ve still got a long road ahead of us along with some major changes that need to be made to our core system in order to get things ready for that next level which I’ll address a bit more later.

This also gave rise to our forums (you are signed up… right?), which has had a great turnout of former Glitchen and new players excited to get in on the action.

MMOGames Editors Choice Award for February 2015

We won!  Thanks to our amazing community, we won MMOGames first ever Editors Choice Award voting, and had an interview (with yours truly) run because of it.  Check it out here.

 

Current Happenings

Architectural Issues

You may have seen our most recent blog post regarding some of the issues we’re working on, but I’ll summarize either way.  Basically, some of the features we’re taking advantage of in order to get our system working well in a distributed environment also make it perform insanely slowly.  While this kind of performance doesn’t hinder a very small user base much, if we were to increase the load on the servers, things wouldn’t go very well right now.

Some experimentation has been done in order to try and improve things without rewriting our entire infrastructure to avoid use of the problem features, which has had at least a little success, but we’re still working towards better solutions and closely monitoring the respective progress by the node.js/io.js teams (did I mention we’ve been experimenting with both, and are excited about the merging of the two projects back together?).

QA2

The QA2 process has started, which means our team is combing through every single level in the game and trying to make sure every barnacle is pointing the right direction, every vendor has a nice and consistent look, and a million other tiny details that these perfectionists are keeping a close eye on.  We’ve already rolled out one of the Groddle regions, and are slowly working through the rest.  I’ll get one of the team members to write something up for the blog soon.

Wrap-up

We’ve been making a good bit of progress on bug fixes while we’ve been trying to sort out the big issues.  We’ve also got a setup for an integrated vanity/wardrobe that we should be able to roll out relatively soon to the alpha testers and are trying to add more testers whenever possible; we’re currently up to 53 users, though there’s typically only a handful on simultaneously.

That’s all for now, folks!  While progress may have slowed down a bit due to outside obligations and our fun architectural issue, be certain that we are very much committed to seeing this through, so we’ll get it working one way or another.

-Kaiyon

Dev log 3: Always read the fine print

Yep, another one of these is long overdue, right?

Since the very start of the Eleven alpha, our dedicated testers are showing some serious commitment, and we have been able to identify and fix a large number of bugs thanks to their help. By now, most of the major game features have been ported from our prototype server to the new one — the notable exception being location instancing, which includes home streets.
But since without doubt the most commonly asked question is some variation of “When are you going to let more players in?”, I would like to give you an honest update in that regard from a technical point of view.

During the past three months, we very slowly ramped up the number of players, keeping a close eye on the system’s performance. While things are mostly working ok-ish (apart from crashes, numerous bugs and just generally being an alpha), it is becoming quite clear that as it stands, the server would not be able to cope with actual MMO-like player numbers.

After some analysis of the underlying issues, we now know that the problem is rooted in a core part of our architecture. Our general approach since day one has been “get the game running with as few changes as possible to the code released by TS”. In order to achieve this, we used a certain bleeding-edge Javascript language feature called Proxies to replicate how the original game server handled references between game objects and communication between server instances, because they are just perfectly suited for that purpose. In retrospect though, we probably should have paid more attention to the fact that their current implementation in Node.js is actually a dead end, and the topic is not a priority for V8.

To illustrate, here’s how “fast” some typical operations are on our server right now:

login_start: 4.12 ops/sec
groups_chat: 2,126 ops/sec
itemstack_verb_menu: 216 ops/sec
itemstack_verb: 316 ops/sec
move_xy: 4,787 ops/sec
trant.onInterval: 1,618 ops/sec

And in comparison, the same operations with the problematic parts taken out (just for the benchmark — the game would not work that way, obviously):

login_start: 6.34 ops/sec
groups_chat: 11,023 ops/sec
itemstack_verb_menu: 1,766 ops/sec
itemstack_verb: 4,454 ops/sec
move_xy: 126,096 ops/sec
trant.onInterval: 49,433 ops/sec

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution here: Reconsidering our early technology platform decisions would of course be a huge step backwards — but more intrusive modifications to the TS architecture and code, to be able to get rid of the “slow” proxies, are not a pleasant prospect either (remember, roughly a million lines of code).
We are of course pondering ways to tackle the problem more creatively, too, but without that liberating Eureka moment so far.

Sorry if all this sounds a bit bleak now, but we would rather be upfront about where we’re at, than raise expectations and then keep you in the dark about the challenges ahead. Rest assured that we are still working hard on Eleven (there are many other moving parts that are not related to this issue), and who knows, maybe there is a feasible solution around the corner that we just didn’t think of yet.
(We should probably donate to Tii more…)

MMOGames Editors Choice of February (Updated)

We won!

Thanks to all of your votes, we won, and should get some nice coverage from them due to it.

If you’re curious to see how well our amazing community did in the voting, take a look here: http://www.mmogames.com/topmmos/mmogames-editors-choice-february-2015/

-edit- The interview I did with the editor is available now here:  http://www.mmogames.com/gamearticles/glitch-revival-project-interview-project-lead-eleven/

-Kaiyon

Vote for Eleven!

While we certainly owe you a real progress update (and there HAS been progress!) we are honored that MMOGames has put Eleven up for Editor’s Choice for February! I’m pleased that the editor has taken notice of us, especially since we are not yet in an open testing phase. If you’re so inclined, take a moment to click the link below and vote for us. The voting is at the bottom of the page, and no registration of any kind is necessary.

MMOGames Editor’s Choice – February 2015

If you haven’t signed up for the forum yet, please do so here; signing up now will reserve your name for the game!

Testing… Testing…1, 2, 3, Testing…

Is this thing on?

Ah, good, it is.

Well, as I’m sure you all know (you do, right?) we’ve let a small group of 13 people into the game to start playing around and testing.  This has been a great success, with many improvements being made to help improve the stability and experience while some other work is ongoing in order to bring over some more features.  Thanks in no small part to these improvements, we’re bringing in another small (but bigger!) group to help with the process.

How’s 18 sound, making a total of 31 alpha testers?  We’ve already picked those new people and let them know.  If you weren’t part of the group this time, just hang tight while we tighten things up more.

And now for some feedback from our testers (They provided a lot of material for this part, but in the interest of not facing TLDR issues, I picked out a few comments.  They can yell at me later.):

“I feel at home and the nostalgia is overwhelming!”

“Incredible!! I didn’t expect it to be identical to Glitch which it is.”

“(S)ome days there are no new bugs(yay) and other days there are quite a few, and often they cause reloads but it’s all part of the process.”

“It’s good to be there, to almost feel the heart of the Giants. Just like if I went through a portal that brought me in Ur a few glitch-years after the events that put an end on Ur. Back in a broken but fixable world, because we have the technology, we can repair it. A bit of a post-apocalyptic atmosphere, if you have the imagination.”

“Things that arent working yet, npc, and emblems, and such. I can’t do basic quests without simple ingredients like butterfly milk and grain.” (Regarding what’s annoying)

“Default Glitchen æsthetics. Bare, bald, grey, and not being naked. Generic! Although we could be wireframed. Generic might be good then, the pants are superfluous.” (Regarding what’s annoying)

-Kaiyon

‘Two Years Past’ or ‘Welcome Home’

It’s been exactly 2 years to the day since we thought we all lost the world of Ur forever.  It most certainly was a sad day for me, and I’m sure I can say the same for the rest of the team (those that played at least).  Little did we know at the time that just under a year later, we’d be given the opportunity to bring it back…and that exactly a year later, we would be able to walk around in Ur, even though it was only on a single street.  It’s been a year of hard, but fun work, and while we’ve got a long ways to go, significant progress has been made.

Welcome Home

Eleven Logo

As those that have been keeping up with the blog may know, we started work on our ‘true’ server, the one that’s going to be for keeps, a while back.  Since we’ve had a chance to figure out how most of the main game functions work, the true test there was going to be getting the overall system architecture set up in such a way that we’d have the stability and organization we need in order to bring the world back together as we left it 2 years ago, and allow a full load of players.  Well, while only a very minimal set of gameplay functions have been implemented in the ‘proper’ way on this new version of the server, we feel we’re ready to open up, albeit to a very small group to start.

It may sound like a tiny number, but we’ll be welcoming 13 people in to start.  How are we going to choose those 13 people?  This first group will be a mix of people we’ve identified as good testers and 5 people brought in based on their levels of interaction with our group via social media (Facebook, Twitter and here on the blog).  Different rules will likely apply to future groups coming in, such as contests and/or first-come-first-serve registration, but those 5 people will be identified and notified shortly.  For now, one of the most important things to remember for testers is: Alpha is really not about playing the game at all, but often rather tedious testing and enduring crashes and bugs and… stuff…

How are we going to let people in to the game?  Well, that’s where the web app piece comes in to play.  Our shiny new forums are launching today as well!  Everyone will be welcome to register and chat on the forums for now, and those chosen to participate in the Alpha will be given access to the game through the same login along with a special Alpha only forum.  The forum url will be announced in approximately an hour via Facebook and Twitter. (Update: look here! http://humbaba.elevengiants.com )

While we’re glad to start bringing people in, please remember that this is a work in progress, and we’re likely to experience some growing pains as we move forward, and since this is a volunteer project, please bear with us while we work these things out.  As always, your best source for updates, whether they be related to issues we’re having, rules for bringing in the next batch of alpha testers, or announcements for new functionality being rolled out will be right here on the blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.  Further information for how you can help out as an Alpha tester once you’re in will be found in the Alpha forums.

Again, welcome home,

-Kaiyon

P.S.: Please look forward to follow up posts from some of the key team members that have helped make this happen.

P.P.S.: Special thanks go out to Aroha, Joey, JustinD, LadyCeres, Scheijan, Turnip and Varaeth for their contributions to this last push towards Alpha, and of course to the rest of the team for all of their hard work on the rest of the project.

A Year of Fun

Well, okay, I may have missed the exact date, but in my defense, my family was fighting a severe case of the plague (that may be a slight exaggeration, but it sure felt like it).

Just a few days over a year ago (November 21, 2013), our little team started to form.  At that point, there was no “Eleven” and there was no project, just a group of people picking around in the assets released by Tiny Speck to try and make sense of what was there, and just as importantly, what wasn’t. While this discussion started up on a private Facebook group (amongst other places), it quickly transitioned over to this amazing product called Slack when Ali (LittlePoundCake) joined the discussion and opened the doors for a few of us to help manage a group of people similarly interested in figuring this whole thing out.  From there, we quickly decided we wanted our main goal to be filling in the missing pieces and bringing the amazing world of Ur back to life.

It’s been an incredible experience so far, and while I know we’ve put a ton of work into it, we’ve a long road ahead to fully reach that goal, and then we’ve got the future to consider!  I could reminisce for several paragraphs, but I’ll leave that out right now (you can always look back at the blog archives).

I know it’s been pretty quiet on our social media front over the past month or so, but please don’t take that as a sign off stagnation.  In fact, it’s just the opposite; we’re working very hard to bring some big things to you all, our loyal followers and displaced residents of Ur.  While I’d love to spill the beans now, please bear with us just a bit longer; announcements will be made soon (don’t you love that term?)…

-Kaiyon

Dev log 2: To the GitHubs!

So, it’s programmer mumbo-jumbo time again! Sorry, I wanted to do another one of these much sooner, but there always seems to be so much else to do, too… anyway, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes during the past couple of weeks. In fact, one of these things concerns coming out from behind said scenes a bit: since creating an open source GlitchEleven game server has been the plan all along, we finally started moving parts of our code to GitHub. What you can see there right now is actually the humble beginning of the “real” game server — no more throwaway prototype code.

Now, before you fire up Git: this is still in early stages, and does not support the actual game client yet. You can marvel at unit test results if that’s your thing, though! Besides, it is just one of several components we are working on; another big one being the webapp, parts of which you have already seen in screenshots or demos (the new vanity/wardrobe and the skills interface). An important next step will be integrating these components and having them talk to each other. This game sure needs a lot of stuff!

Testing can be fun, too.

Unit tests can be fun, too.

Also, a couple of new people have joined the dev team recently, and I want to specifically mention two of them who already contributed some great work. Amabaku has been making steady progress on the long-neglected topic of NPC movement, and it makes working on other parts of the system so much more enjoyable when you get to see the world coming more and more to life in the background. Meanwhile, Egiantine started looking into creating a better AMF library for Node.js (AMF being the data format of the messages exchanged between game server and client). The existing options all turned out to be lacking in one area or another, but her initial benchmark results look very promising. With the library we are currently using, the server process simply cannot keep up with the messages from more than a handful of clients, so this really is a key piece of infrastructure.
While it is still easier to try and test these and other new features in the existing prototype server (being able to fire up the game and all), step by step they will be ported over to the “real” server in the coming weeks and months. Moving forward 🙂

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