Friday, June 20, 2014

LAN 2014 Review!

Now that the travelling immediately post-LAN is concluded and I have returned, it's time to reflect a bit on the results of this years LANstravaganza. First the behind the scenes stuff then the gameplay results.

  • Setup:
    • Installation FAILURE(S). OMG the installer didn't work on fresh machines. Existing installations updated fine but new machines failed for as of yet unknown reasons. Obviously this should be prio 1 for me to fix. It's worked for so long that I haven't checked up on fresh installs. A bit of a pain to diagnose, but so it goes. Not all programming is glamourous.
    • Asset acquisition. 2 machines failed to get some of the assets during play. The initial asset set on login all worked, but some were missing rig assets, and Cheryl was notably missing pretty much everything. Still can play though :)
  • Server Side:
    • Aside from earlier issues, not bad at all. Like last year I didn't have to touch the server nor run a single zone manually. It managed itself nicely behind the scenes, even recovering gracefully from someone putting Outpost on 'server melter difficulty'. 
    • No noteworthy problems with the server. There ARE still issues with exploration mode, but that was removed for the LAN for that reason.
Now more interesting stuff:

  • Scenarios!
    • Tutorial
      • The tutorial works good! People seemed to enjoy playing it and for the most part understood what was going on. We have a list of things to improve of course, but that's to be expected. Once the installers are working I'll recommend to anyone that wasn't here to play the tutorial and give more feedback :)
      • I believe we had 5 or 6 people simultaneously playing the tut. Not bad for a 9 year old server box.
      • In the end 8 people played it most of the way through. Sean didn't get a chance to finish, after he encountered one of a very few breaking bugs in the tut, which will be fixed promptly.
    • Glacier
      • This was Eirikr's 2v2 PvP scenario, a kill-count race with incrementally spawning units hostile to both teams, of increasing danger and value.
      • We played 4 times, with varying teams. It went better than I honestly expected. PvP's a tricky beast in this game just by its very nature. We didn't originally plan to have PvP in the game, but these scenarios are just so easy to make, and are somewhat rewarding to watch being played.
      • Notably, a couple people had more control trouble in this map. There are some narrower areas which tend to produce those problems. Figuring out the root cause of those control issues is a pretty high priority for me, it'll probably take some pretty serious analysis at a forthcoming TOASTnight. 
      • Balance issues? It's not possible to really say there's any balance to have an issue yet, but watching Max blitz through 2 enemy players without resistance was something of a sight to behold. Mostly ignore this for now, until we're sure all the class mechanics are working. PvP counter play doesn't have all it's necessary bits yet. Improved defensive maneuvers and the focus maneuver may help out, if and when they are done.
      • Well done Eir :)
    • Outpost
      • This is the somewhat scripted defensive scenario I've used as a testbed since just after last year's LAN. 
      • The scenario plays out fairly well, but objectives aren't clear and it is somewhat exploitable.
        • Allies can cross into the spawn territory of the enemies. Since they spawn incrementally for most of the scenario, this makes it way way easy and needs to be controlled or removed. Most likely we'll make an optional objective to do something across the river in enemy territory, but forbid spawn camping directly.
        • Enemy scaling is complicated and occasionally broken. This scenario scales up with player count, which works peculiarly. Double the players cannot handle double the enemies in this case, which is somewhat surprising. In any case this mostly just needs more tools to allow the scenario designer to control the enemy count better. Also, more time to tune against player count.
        • Anticlimax. The scenario just ENDS if you win. We need a finale or at least some fireworks :) The win screen doesn't really exist either; it just takes you back to the initial menu for when a scenario is initializing and the players get ready. This is very true of Glacier too.
    • Others
      • Mostly other scenarios were played in interims and only a bit
      • KoboldKing, the focus of the last LAN, was basically obliterated. The enemy defensive power was mostly due to a mechanic that we removed from the base unit definitions (opting to have it be part of the scenario instead), but didn't re-add to the scenario. Sooo, the players pretty much just ran over the boss and called it a day.
      • TerraTest wasn't played, it's day is probably done, which is not sad at all because it is bad. As with many others, was mostly a testbed for development.
      • Maul wasn't played, it needed rebuilding anyway.
      • There are no other noteworthy scenarios... yet.
Overall this year was much better! Last year I said that 'it was more of a game than a demo now'. This year this is much more true. The features added for the tutorial have really improved things across the whole game.

So what's next?

First, incorporating the LAN feedback, as recorded in this pic.

Second, more scenarios! Time to make a new scenario. Maybe an assault scenario or a reverse-escort assassination mission, or an escort mission, or...

Third, details! A pass over animations and sound would be good to do. Fleshing out sounds for the entire tutorial would be an important step forward for media. Most of the LAN played without sound so I got away without much negative feedback there, but I know what it'd be if they could hear it.

To finish up, how bout a couple images? Here's the couple I took after I finally remembered to.

Time to get started, I suppose.

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