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Archive for January, 2010

Chat!

January 17th, 2010 4 comments

You might have noticed that we are currently publicly testing a chat on the beta. It’s still in an early development phase, we rejected the technical approach that we made last summer due to several reasons. What was being reused was the user interface design, except from that, everything got reworked.

But most likely, you are not interested in such technical details but want to know some questions answered, first off, one of the most asked questions is:

Can the chat switched off?

The answer is: not yet. But it’ll be possible.  Not just globally for everyone through the game’s configuration but on a personal liking basis. You should be able to show up in chat as you wish.

What chat rooms will be available? Can we create our own ones?

The initial version plans to offer three room types: Town chat, county chat and fort battle chat. Other channels are possible, but that’s for the start. Also, it is planned that anyone can send whisper / tell messages to anyone. One priority is, that you can always hide your online status. Only your town mates will always know your online status. One remaining problem is the lack of moderation of the county chat – while town founders and councillors can moderate the town channel, the county is lacking such possibilities. Though we plan that affronts within the chat can be reported like in other places, this might still be problematic for the county chat. If there are too many affronts being generated, we might consider switching the county chat off.

What will the fort battle chat look like?

The first draft determines that there will be different rights and administration possibilities for the chat. There are going to be service grades that are roughly based on the service grades of the U.S. military:

  • General (officer)
  • Captain (officer)
  • Private
  • Recruit
  • Traitor

Traitors are a special rank that is set for players that are regarded as spies. Traitors can’t do anything in the fort battle chat, nor can they read what is being written on the chat.

Officers have the right to talk on the channel in a way that everyone can read (except for the traitors of course…). Generals are players that are town founders of towns that is either the owning town of the fort or the town that declared the attack. Generals can not be demoted except through the town management tools.

Everyone else is starting as recruits (though some players suggest that town founders of member towns of the fort should start with the captain’s rank). Recruits may not chat on the channel, but they can read what officers are writing. Recruits can be promoted to the private rank which is similar to the recruit rank. It serves only the purpose of distinguishing between approved and new players.

Privates can be promoted to the captain rank which grants them the officer rights.

The communication between privates and officers works through “whispered”  messages, e.g.: “/tell zet hi there”. Officers will be able to deactivate the possibility to receive messages from lower ranks.

Besides these features, there’ll be an officer chat that is only available to captains and generals.

The general idea here is, that the generals recruit a number of captains in order to structure their own communication order. Generals and captains will be able to discuss strategy, the captains will most likely have the duty to tell the privates what they should do in detail and communicate their problems to the other officers.

We might change this design however later on through the experiences we gain from the beta.

When will the chat be available on the worlds?

The chat is a part of 1.25, however, it will be deactivated at the beginning for most worlds. We will enable the chat one by one over the time, once we have had some experiences with “real worlds”. If we experience technical or social problems (too many affronts being generated), we might consider not activating it at all on certain worlds or only partially activating it (only fortbattle chat and / or town chat).

What are you working on right now?

Right now, there are many things that need care due to the chat. The infrastructure grew very quickly and without lots of planning (I typed almost everything straight into code without going through a planning board). While this is a good approach to get quick results, it tends to eat up later some time for restructuring the code flow. While the basic features worked within one week, I spent the last two weeks either on totally different work (2010 game-feature planning) or restructuring some basic stuff, which did not affect the chat experience at all, but greatly changed how the chat works. As this might look like a “not-so-good-approach” (just doing it), I prefer it that way, as there’s always a working prototype that one can use to collect valuable experience for planning more detailed stuff. Actually, if there was no fort battle chat, it would have been done by now, but the fort battle chat is somewhat more sophisticated and it needs much more care than all the rest together. I still believe however that it’ll reach a stable state in february. It might lack a few features then though – like sophisticated menus, GUI, etc. Right now, and after all these months without any progress, I am really very happy about the current progress and the development speed.

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