Sunday, 9 January 2011

Technical Difficulties

So, a while back, I thought about how long it was taking me to complete Magical Diary and how much the huge sea of possibilities needs to be tested, and decided to open an alpha/preorder option for people who were willing to buy into an unfinished product at a discount and help move it along.

The problem is, of course, that it's in development. Really heavily in development. Things are being added all the time. So my usual practice of giving everyone fullbuilds and manually issuing them new downloads when new versions come out just wasn't going to cut it, it would be far too much work.

My original plan was to sell people passwords and drop builds into a locked directory somewhere and let them download the latest build when they felt like it. But no, Spiky Caterpillar wanted to try something different. AN UPDATER.

In an ideal world this means people can push a button and magically connect to the patch server, have it determine what files they need to bring their game up to speed, and have those files be supplied so that they can smoothly carry on playing. In an ideal world. Of course that's a lot easier said than done, because of the need to make all sorts of entirely different GUI for anything customer-facing (like PROGRESS INDICATORS. Downloading 40MB with no sign that you're doing anything at all sucks.) And other things. You can't replace files in the game while it's running and have it actually recognise them, that's not a surprise, it does have to restart after putting new files in. That part works pretty well. WinXP was a little picky at first about certain files being replaced while they were 'open' but we got around that and it seemed like it was working.

Of course as soon as it was handed to any users it has run into access errors again. So SOME people can patch, but not all, yet. When the game is finally finished it won't really matter, because updates shouldn't happen often, so if someone can't patch I can just give them a new installer. But I really hope we can make it work for preorder folk. It'll end up giving a bit of a 'serial' feeling to the game, if you keep getting a little bit more story every week or so... :)

Speaking of which, if we can make the updater work for enough people, I have ideas of actually doing a free serial kinetic novel that way. Tune in next week for the latest chapter! Don't know if it'll actually happen because I am terribly busy, but it's an interesting idea. BUT we have to get this thing working robustly first.

At least the traceback uploader appears to be working out so far. But even if that confused players, it will still have been worth it, because it made it so much easier for ME to send tb's to Spiky while doing development!

Anyway with all the fooling around needed to get an updater running and enough GUI in place to give a build to testers, I haven't done much writing in the past week and need to get back on schedule... Surely there's only another 50K or so to go, right?

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