Elite Dangerous has 4 billion+ stars. Cool concept, and as a programmer I can see how the tech behind that would be neat to develop. But I sort of feel there should have been a meeting where a designer stood up and slammed his fist onto the table and said “NO! That’s stupid”. “Cool” does not automatically translate into “fun”; “cool” is a few degrees from “cold”.
So the tag line of my blog was always “gamer turned dev”, referring to my becoming a game dev.
Well, that’s no-longer true. I’d been considering some really exciting opportunities from MMO- and just-plain-online- game developers but ultimately I had a left-of-field offer that was just too interesting.
When most people hear where I’ve chosen to place my hat for the next few years, they’re confused. “Isn’t it just a website”.
There’s a hell of a lot of infrastructure behind the scenes to make Facebook seem like “just a website” to people. I’ve hired on to the Production Engineering team, a group of engineers within FB that some people make sound like the engineering equivalent of a marine corpsman and others liken to just plain marines.
It’s also a fairly close analogy with the sorts of roles I had working for ISPs 93-03.
My passion for gaming and my passion for connecting people online come from the same moment – when my fourth-grade class was made to play a single-player “settlers” type game in groups of 5 on an Apple Lisa and I was appointed “secretary” (the one operating the keyboard) for my group. I joking refer to this as my “1979 Multi-Player Experience”.
We just bought ourselves Samsung’s 65 inch, Ultra High Def 4k 120hz Smart TV… Ooer.
This is a stunning piece of hardware. We picked the variant with the “one connect” external box. You plug everything into that rather than the TV itself. This has all kinds of advantages.
The display is HUGE. It really is a little bit of a home-theater experience. There are some fantastic presets for picture settings and some clever nuances like three settings for auto-levelling sound (off, standard and night).
For our first night of viewing we broke out an eclectic series of tests.
We plugged in the Xbox one and threw in a Pacific Rim bluray; we threw in a DVD of old 40s, black and white, Sherlock Homes, Heaven Can Wait on DVD and finally Rio on Blu Ray.
Then to streaming, Amazon Instant Video (AIV): The “One Connect” box that comes with our particular model has build in apps, so we tried AIV on both the Xbox and the TV.
I wrapped up the night with a short session of Thief on the Xbone.
Tonight I tried watching a few more shows using solely the TV – some HD YouTube videos, “The Pacific” on AIV and Falling Skies S04E01 on AIV on the TV and on the Xbox.
A “massively online game” is a game with a large enough population that there will be some requirement to distribute processing work and some form of shared, persistent state that is going to make distribution non-trivial.
WWIIOL is a big empty PvP sandbox with a shared world-state and a single, shared, resource (supply of equipment). Elite Dangerous is technically just a multi-player, map-based shoe box (star systems are sharded dynamically) but it has a single, shared, supply economy… Both are “massively” by the technical definition.
People have been making “massively” games, then, since 1988 (AirWarrior) at least. Many of the same problems have persisted across the development process since. But it seems that, today, there are still people stepping over that threshold in denial and breaking themselves in the process.
There are two main ways you can flop across the finish line, whether you’re a new startup or an established and successful developer…
I’m unsure whether to write a long, rambling rant about my observations of ED, trying to explain and expound, or whether just to cut to the brutal chase. Today is my birthday so I’m going to treat myself to a short brutal vent.
Frontier have released a decent number of games and they’ve done OK in the console/pc box game market.
Elite Dangerous is the first Elite to leave the hallowed ground of single player, and it’s skipping simple campaign / self-hosted co-op and going straight to sharded MMO. And I see all the warning signs of a box-game dev team making the mistake of thinking they have a clue about how to develop an MMO.
1. They’re referring to the current state as “beta” when it is clearly “alpha”. Unfortunately, the terms have their meanings kind of fixed, and people draw conclusions based on them. Including the engineers etc working on the product (“What comes after beta? Pay!”)
2. They seem to have selected Web Forums as the primary means of communicating with players. Perhaps they have secretly discovered that the 12 years or so of evidence that this does not work only applies to games developed in the US? But click that link and compare the number of posts in “Elite: Dangerous General” – just the one forum – with the older frontier game forums which represent games that have been out for years.
3. Any MMO dev who plays the game and loiters in the forums briefly for a week or so will know in their bones that nobody is “watching” the beta, certainly not any of the important metrics, stats etc, and since they are clearly competent at single player games, you can only conclude that it’s because they just haven’t got a clue that they should be.
4. There is no evidence of QA.
I’m just going to skip straight to the conclusion I’ve drawn from years of experience applied to filtering/processing what I see in their forums, in their patches, etc.
Frontier are working this exactly like a single player game would be shipped, with the addition of forums to handle the online community.
I’ve been an Elite fan for a long time, so naturally I backed the kick starter.
Since I’m in the middle of seeking new employment, I’m not getting a great deal of time to play, but you may see me flying around as ‘kfsone’ if you too are trying to beta.
So I’m back on the job market. Lots of ideas and inspiration from my time at Blizzard, a really great place to work. No, I won’t tell you. I already have a few job apps out, and I’m trying to stick to the US west coast and gaming.
I’ve been in the games industry proper for near 12 years now, and while that’s where I’m going to look first, I’m going to be open to possibilities back in the real world.
Right now I’m toying with the idea of a C++-centric code templator I’m thinking of calling “C” (C-squared); something that can handle trivial cases like “take this list of words and generate an enum statement and an array of strings” to the ability to generate multiple complex code modules from shared definitions.