All posts by KaiyonAlatar

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

Running the Routes

I know the resource routes were a bit of a polarizing game feature.  Most people either loved or hated it.  Well, here’s a quick video showing a short one in action!

A couple quick notes:

  • We only have the one street template to work with at the moment which I tried to piece together from a full street snap of one of the old ones.  We’re working with TS to see if we can get access to the original templates.
  • Butler motion is still a little buggy.  Most of them are standing still next to the house, but one of them (the one on my street) is stuck in front of my tower.

-Kaiyon

State of the Project Address V2.0

Hi everyone!

It’s been a good 5 months since I last gave a nice overall summary of our progress on things, so here we go.

Game Related:

You know that throwaway server we’ve been talking about?  Well, we’re just about ready to throw it away!  Well, not really throw it away; it’ll still be a playground to figure things out for a while, but we’re actually ready to start working on the actual thing!  Aroha has put a lot of work into the high level design while we’ve been picking away at the throwaway server, so keep tuned for further details soon.  (I’ll pester him into making another one of his Dev Log posts.)

Of less importance, but more fun, is the fact that we got a lot more features working.  Just some of the highlights include the home streets and interiors along with towers (expect a video from me soonish!), hi5 signs, GPS features on the main map, triggers (physics and such), and I’m sure I’m missing a bunch!

The QA team under LadyCeres is still tweaking the locations of different items with input from their fake forums while also cataloging the way street spirits should look around the world of Ur.  To put that second part into perspective, each street spirit is made up of several customizable parts, which leads to an absurd number of possible combinations, but only a smaller subset actually make any sense, since some of the different styles simply don’t physically match up. You an expect a blog post about how the world of Ur is coming together soon!

Eleven Logo

We have a new logo made by none other than Kukubee himself!  He was awesome enough to make us our very own logo with similar styling to the Glitch one, but with it’s own unique feel to it.

eleven hq

Work has even started on the Android version of the Eleven app based on the Glitch HQ app that TinySpeck had.  Gafanhotz has been hard at work making it look really slick while the server infrastructure is still being developed to help drive the app.

Website Related:

eleven_forums

The forums are getting very close to internal testing, which means they’re also close to a public release!  Varaeth has been hard at work getting the whole website infrastructure set up to allow us to incorporate the forums with the game, vanity, wardrobe, etc…  I can hardly wait to be able to start interacting with everyone in a more direct manner.  Expect an update soon when internal testing starts.

I’m sure you’ve all already seen Joey’s video showing off the new combined wardrobe and vanity.  If not, what are you waiting around for, get over there and take a look!  Gone are the days of having to go back and forth between two tools to update your overall appearance; it’s all in one now, baby!  We’re still considering some extra features, such as customizing the color of some of the different pieces of clothing, so let us know what you think.  This is even something we could consider rolling out to public testing soon.  Stay tuned for more details!

skills

We’ve got an early concept for our skills page as well, thanks to RedBirdo.  Once we get the forums rolled out, we can begin integrating these important game-related features with the rest of the website.

Bottlenecks:

I’ll go over some of the bottlenecks from my last big post along with an update on where we are (some of which may have been mentioned above already), along with some new things.

Logo – Done!  Thanks Kukubee!

Vanity and Wardrobe – Mostly done!  Turnip started off the efforts to determine how it worked in the background for TinySpeck, and Joey helped finish it off by creating an amazing new interface.  We’ve got a little more behind the scenes work to handle in order to get the spritesheets generated (and put in the right spot for the game to pick up), but the main work has been finished!

God Pages – We’ve stalled a bit here, but have a small set of pages to start from.  Soon, we’ll need to pick this back up as a higher priority, and really start to consider the scope we want to include in our version of the system.  We’ll try to blog some details of this effort at some point.

Authentication – Just about done!  Varaeth is just working out some of the last details before we can start the forums testing.

Pathfinding – Still waiting.  There have been bigger fish to fry, so it keeps getting pushed aside.  If anyone has some experience in this area and would like to join our little team to take a stab at it, let us know!

Other Notes:

“Can we come it and play yet?”  – Unfortunately not yet, but we’re getting closer with every step we take.  The rollout of the forums and wardrobe/vanity and the fact that we’re gearing up to start working on the ‘real’ game server should be good signs, so keep your eyes fixed here.

“Shut up and take my money!!!” – Patience, friends.  We still don’t have a great demand for income, since servers are really our only expense right now, and we’ve got that pretty well covered.  We’re also evaluating options on how to take donations once we start needing them, as well as considering options for Eleven merch.  As always, stay tuned here for more details.

Final Notes:

Again, I’d like to thank all of our amazing friends.  Tiny Speck, Kukubee, Jade, Danny, Brandon Brown, Xavier and many more that I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Things are slowly coming together, and I’m still insanely proud to be able to lead such a great team of people.  It’s amazing how well people can work together when they have a common goal!

Sincerely,

Your Chief Chicken Tamer,

Jim ‘KaiyonAlatar’ Condren

Fun With Logos

Ladies and gentleglitchen, I’m very proud to unveil a very special something from a very special someone…

Our new official logo created by none other than Kukubee himself as his own personal contribution to our efforts!

Eleven Logo

 

We’ll be working to get this integrated into the game and rolled out to our website and social media outlets, so be on the lookout!

-Kaiyon

Unique Challenges

Seems your chief chicken tamer has been quiet for over two months.  Seems a good time to change that.

We’ve been asked with increasing frequency about a time line for an alpha test, and, while my previous post highlighted some of the tasks that sit between us and opening up, I haven’t touched on some of the challenges that a team like ours has to face which make even rough estimates on a timeline neatly impossible until we’re much closer to that goal.  What I’m talking about here is at the very nature of this project; we’re a volunteer only operation made up of rabid fans.

Volunteers
Every single person on the team is working on it as a labor of love. We don’t get paid for it (nor do we want to be currently, before offers of funding start flowing in), and just about anyone with a desire and applicable skill sets are welcome to contribute.  This leads us to a few of our major challenging points; availability, disappearances and missing skills.

Availability
Most of the team hold down full time day jobs (myself included) or attend school at the university level full time, with at least one notable exception. Bundle that with some having familial (I’ve got a wife and 2 small children, personally) or other outside obligations, and some of us are lucky to find spare time to work on the project in a given week. If we had even a handful of skilled people that could dedicate their efforts full-time to the project, things would move along a lot faster. In fact, Aroha has recently had the fortune to be able to devote nearly a full time effort, split with a personal project, and has helped advance several tasks much faster than would have otherwise happened. On the flip side, final exams, school projects, moving and starting new jobs (something I’m personally in the middle of) have caused several key team members to lessen their contributions significantly over the past few months.

Disappearances
If you look at the number of people we’ve brought into our team (91), you’d think we’d have enough people to move things along at a decent pace. Unfortunately, only 20 or so have actually continued to contribute past their initial excitement. It’s hard to say what exactly causes this to happen. Perhaps they find they don’t have as much time as they thought they did, aren’t quite as skilled as they thought, or maybe they just lose interest.  Either way, it can be difficult to deal with someone disappearing without notice, especially if they had a desired skill or had committed to a task already.  Unlike a paid job, the incentive to keep us up-to-date on what’s going on doesn’t seem to exist for some. Fortunately, we haven’t had to deal with this situation too many times, but it has caused some setbacks.

Missing skills
There are a very talented group of people committed to getting this project completed, which is amazing; there are a few areas where the skill sets are missing or held by too few team members (or team members that aren’t able to contribute a significant amount of time).  A couple examples of this situation are graphic design and significant AS3 experience.

Butting heads
I honestly think we’ve been incredibly lucky with regards to how well our team gets along, even though the occasional disagreement had occurred. So, while this hasn’t been a huge issue, there has been at least one notable exception where someone didn’t mesh well enough with the group that they felt they had to leave the project. It was an unfortunate situation, but I was quite happy that it was able to be resolved in a very peaceful manner, and I’m quite hopeful that we won’t see any worse situations in the future.

Internationalization
While it seems most of the team is based in the US, there are a good number of team members hailing from other countries around the world, including, but not limited to, Germany, the UK and Brazil. You’d think the time zone and language barriers would be a bigger obstacle, but aside from some people mentioning where they’re from or that they don’t know the best way to say something, you’d hardly be able to tell.

Managing expectations
Everyone is excited, probably our team more than most. Truth is, this is a massive undertaking, and, especially when you take some of the above into account, it’s going to take time. We have some talented and driven people working on it, but that won’t make it go that much quicker. The only realistic way to get things done faster would be to have all of us quit our current jobs/school and find a way to get paid fair wages from this project, which isn’t something that we want to do and don’t feel is viable long term. If you look closely at the discussions that Tiny Speck had regarding the shut down, you’ll see that the game had to not only support a current staff level at a fair wage, but also compensate for the time in development when no money was coming in. This is a hole we’d prefer not to get ourselves in, and if we decide to build up a paid team at some point, it would likely be under a different kind if structure to help make the game more viable.

So, while we know you’re all excited to get in and play, it’s going to take some time. Don’t worry though, our key contributors are very committed to making this happen; when we finally let you in, be certain that we’re giving you the best built game we can. Tiny Speck gave us a great starting point from which to rebuild Ur.

State of the Project Address

We’re making excellent progress, but we’re at the point now where we have a couple bottlenecks in the way of a few goals. I’d like to give a general idea of where we are with everything right now. I know what you’re all thinking, TL;DR. Sorry, but I had a lot to cover. 😀

Game Related:

Location tagging is done, and has been done for a while now, well ahead of its original estimated schedule. Great job taggers (LadyCeres and team) and Scheijan for creating and utilizing the great tools that were put together for this task!

The “Throwaway Server” is coming along great. We’ve got experimentation going on constantly in regards to what we want to consider the “correct” way to do things (go Aroha!). RethinkDB is plugged in and can easily be switched out with the file based persistence layer (woot JustinD!) and progress is constantly being made on the HTTP API functions and all of their dependancies (Joey rules!).

We’ve got a total of 3 servers currently in the group; Lem, Tii (both of which are being administered by Turnip) and “Scheijan’s awesome server of awesomeness” (written as SASA below). Lem is doing a great job hosting all of our tools and the website, Tii is anxiously awaiting the start of QA2 while the team experiments with LocoDeco in preparation, and SASA is our regularly updated playground where our team can play around to see the state of the system.

Website/Internal Tools Related:

The Blog is chugging along great with 5,145 all time views (528 in a single day with Sirentist’s great tagging overview being the main catalyst) and 95 total comments. If anyone has any requests for something they’d like to see, or something they’d like us to talk about, please let us know at contact_us@elevengiants.com.

Our internal wiki hosted by Trac has been slowly growing.  For anyone looking for a simple, easy to use wiki and bug tracking system, I’d highly recommend checking out Trac.

GitLab has been a tremendous home for our source control, and I know the upgraded Lem server is able to handle it a lot better; we’ve been able to get rid of a lot of the strange bugs in the transfer as well.

Trello has really helped keep the project organized.  Without it, my job of keeping things together and running smoothly would be a lot more annoying and filled with lovely spreadsheets…  Which really aren’t all that lovely…  There I go with my hated ellipses again…  Which if you couldn’t tell I hate…  Not just ellipses themselves, but their overuse…  I hate myself for this… I’m done now… Okay… Maybe I’m really done now. Yup, much better.

Lastly, but I’d argue most importantly, Slack, without which we’d have had a great deal more trouble getting organized into a functional group and keeping track of all of our thoughts.  I can’t stress how uncommon an occurrence we’ve come across with the opportunity to work with such an amazing company as Tiny Speck. Can you think of any other commercial development group (game or otherwise) that not only contributes a great majority of their source and assets to public use in the most open form that they possibly could, but also helps a group of committed (mentally?) and talented fan developers take that contribution and give very constructive feedback and details to help fill in the gaps that they left. As always, “Thanks Tiny Speck team!”

Other Tools:

Our friend Scheijan has, with some helpful feedback and testing from other members of the group, come up with a great means to allow new developers on the team to quickly (in relative terms) set up a development playground on their own machines with a Vagrant box. This is enormously helpful because we have at least one item in our technology stack that is really only well supported on Linux (RethinkDB); this allows non-Linux users a very easy means of setting up a box that supports everything we’re currently working with.

Bottlenecks:

On to the current hindrances we’re dealing with: I’d like everyone to consider these a little higher on the priority stack, although not any higher than the other items that are currently being worked on by the active dev team. If anyone either has the necessary skills, or knows someone with them (no need to have ever played Glitch), please let me know so we can try to help kick start the process (slack@elevengiants.com).

Logo – CoreParadox came up with some great mock ups which will be a good starting point, but we need to narrow down the final design we want to use (even if we come up with a few variants), and get it ready for public consumption. He has had limited time to contribute lately, which has all been poured into the missing asset list, so progress has slowed. What we need here is a talented graphic artist (with a somewhat whimsical style befitting of Ur) to help work with him on finalizing his initial efforts.

Vanity and Wardrobe – Turnip has volunteered to take a stab at these tasks, but has expressed interest in finding someone that already has some experience with Flash to help the process along. We have a good high-level idea of what we need to do, along with some sample code from a deprecated version that Tiny Speck used to have residing on the client side, but we need to figure out the details. Some grunt work may also be needed at some point later on with this project (once we get a workable, if buggy, version of the tools) to help come up with the specific transformations that will need to be performed on the base assets in order to build the full spritesheets (although some of that might already be built in).

God Pages – Hirune has already volunteered to work with Scheijan on this implementation. No real need for any more help (unless Scheijan wants to jump in and correct me), but the QA2 project will depend heavily on at least a subset of the God pages, so I felt a need to list it here.

Authentication – Varaeth has been neck deep in researching what our best option is with regards to a single sign on style authentications system that can easily integrate the game, forums and other webbly bits. Once this is done, we can start setting up our public forums which will be vital for getting the community hooked in and interested in our project while we await a very early alpha (Vanilla is the top candidate after we ruled out NodeBB for being too young and immature for our needs, although still a cool option once it has some more features).

Pathfinding (not a bottleneck, per se, but something that should be addressed before an alpha if possible) – I had started working on some rudimentary pathfinding logic a month or so back which I’ve been unable to touch since due to outside obligations, so if anyone is interested in taking a stab at it, please let me know, otherwise, I’ll leave it on my to-do list.

Other Notes:

I know everyone is very interested in a demo/alpha version of the game that you can actually get into and play around with.  You’ll note that most of the items listed above as bottlenecks directly relate to this bigger goal, so we’re working hard on making it happen. Even though administering an alpha style test setup will add a good bit of overhead to our team, I think it’s a vital task and worth said effort, even if we have to pull in somebody to specifically handle these kinds of things.

We’ve also been approached several times about monetary donations to our cause. This is something that I don’t think we want to consider at this point, at least not until we have our alpha system in place; if we need it at that point, we will only ask to gain enough money to take care of specific needs that we identify. If we start taking money from people outside of our group before we’re ready, it might change expectations in such a way that we’d prefer to avoid, at least for the time being. In the meantime, any monetary needs we have I’m pretty confident can be reached by the members of our team (which has been the case so far).

Some fun news that I don’t think we’ve shared yet: we’ve received permission to use (but not distribute) the music from all 3 of the main composers involved in Glitch (Danny, Brandon Brown and Xavier). Special thanks go out to all 3 of them for their generously Glitchy spirits.

I’d also like to give some special thanks to MacKenzie (Jade) here as well. She’s been invaluable in the QA processes thus far (as well as providing great input elsewhere) by allowing us to benefit from her wealth of information and experience regarding the QA process and tools that were used by Tiny Speck to help kick start our own QA efforts. Thank you!

Final Notes:

I’m very proud to be a part of such an amazing, driven and talented group of individuals. I don’t think there’s a single person on this team that shouldn’t be amazed at how much progress we’ve made in the short (almost) 4 months we’ve been working together.  We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but also a lot to look forward to as we finish bringing the world of Ur back to life and start to put some of our own small touches to it. Stay tuned for more fun little updates of how we’re doing along the way.

Sincerely,

Eleven Projects “Chief Chicken Tamer”,

KaiyonAlatar

Imagining Up an Alpha/Demo

I know one of the big things everyone is thinking about when it comes to our little project has to be, “When can I play!?!” I honestly can’t blame anyone. I mean, our friends over at Children of Ur have a playable demo up, so why can’t we? Well, there are a bunch of good reasons, which I’ll gladly go over, and let you know what we have left that needs to happen before we can allow any level of public consumption of the game.

1) Logo

As you may already know, one of the restrictions Tiny Speck placed on the use of their code is that nobody could use the names “Tiny Speck” or “Glitch.” While “Tiny Speck” isn’t as big of an issue, “Glitch” has its logo front and center while loading up the game.

This means we need to come up with our own logo and substitute it in. We’re lucky enough to have some creative people in our midst who are currently working on this. CoreParadox came up with a great mock-up and he’s working with DanteAmaya to refine it into something that we’ll be able to replace the Glitch logo with. Once we have something a bit more finalized, you can be sure to see it here first.

2) Authentication

We currently don’t use logins to specify users on our test systems. Instead, we’re taking a somewhat hacky approach, which, for the security of our test systems, I’ll avoid describing in more detail than to just say it’s hacky. A side effect from this approach is that anyone would be easily able to access anyone else’s character. I know I personally would hate to think of someone else messing around with my character while I’m away.

The biggest issue we have to consider while researching the possible approaches to authentication, though, is that we need a single login to work for every part of the website: the forums and activity feed, the vanity and wardrobe, the game and the auctions, and more. The good news is we’re wrapping up this research and are close to a decision. Stay tuned for more details.

3) Avatar Creation

Some of the items that weren’t included with the code Tiny Speck released to the public are the Vanity and Wardrobe. While we could (and still might) move forward utilizing a default avatar or even allowing users to pull their characters as they appeared at the end of Glitch, one of the big draws of the game is the ability to customize your experience, from your avatar to the way you play the game to the way you build your /home.

What we do have, though, are all of the assets that are used to build the avatar; we’re just missing the code to put it all together. Once we’re further on in the process of rebuilding this, we’ll post here with some details.

4) User Number Limitation (Temporary Architectural Design Restraints)

While we’re in the early stages of development, any demo we put out will likely be somewhat unstable and running on lower-powered servers.

What’s that you say? You’d be willing to throw some money our way to help with better servers?

Well, that’s great and all, but why don’t you hold onto your money until we have a greater need and a more stable system. While a beefier server might allow more people to be logged on at once, the risk of encountering a system-crashing bug due to the current instability would only go up as well.

How about adding more servers, you ask?

The problem here is our framework is currently only set up to run on a single server as far as normal game processing goes, and some of the high-level processes are in what we’re considering a ‘temporary’ state so we can access the game while we work out some of the details. It’s something we need to address, but it’s a little lower on the priority stack while we get some more basic game functionality working. Once we have the mechanics of the game a bit cleaner, we’ll work on how to spread the load across multiple servers. You can look forward to a blog post from our friend Aroha giving some of the more nitty-gritty technical details of our current setup soon.

So now you want to know how you’ll be able to play?

There are a few ways we could go here. We’ve come up with a couple options and may think of more before we get to this point. One option would be to have a closed alpha where we allow so many users to have access to the game over a specified period of time, say, a week, before removing their access and allowing the next set of users in. Another option would be to simply restrict how many people are in the game at a time, so you’d just have to wait in line until someone else logged out and a spot opened up.

I personally would prefer the first option (closed alpha). It would keep users from having the hassle of waiting to see if and when a spot would open up, and instead would allow unlimited access (minus server down time) over a longer period of time. It would also be a lot easier to implement.

To summarize, we’re a long way away from having things done the right way, but we’re working hard to make sure the amazing Glitch-loving community will have something they can jump in and try out.