Developer's Blog

The Dev Blog for the upcoming game Zero Sum Future, where our lead programmer walks through engine design, game design, and more!

Pre-Alpha Post Mortem

Even odds say that if you are reading this right now, you participated (or at least heard about) the little pre-alpha party we had last Sunday, February 11th. This is the obligatory post-mortem post.

TL;DR: Overall feedback is positive, there is a long road ahead for us here at Plungerhorse, and some of fixes are going to be their own blog posts, so you got that to look forward to that.

Let's start with the issues that people noted. In no particular order:

  1. There is a random crash that happens when the game runs for about 15 minutes. While the number is a wild guess, the crash is real. I think it's an overflow/memory problem somewhere in the bowels of game logic. To entertain my grand audience, I will document the process I use to find and fix this problem. Yeah, “entertaining.”

  2. There is an issue with the selection boxes. We use CEGUI, and while I can't reproduce the issue on my end, sometimes the box stops updating, and moving the cursor out of the box fixes the issue. No idea what's causing this one.

  3. We tried having a 4-way game only once. There are some… stability problems with the netcode at the moment.

  4. Gameplay-wise, there are a few glaring issues. Selling booze is waaay overpowered, most industries can't compete, and illegal buildings don't do enough. Oh, and the UI system we're using for the markets are very opaque.

  5. People are really, really asking for a geosynchronous camera option. I myself prefer the slowly rotating planet, but this has to be a gameplay option.

  6. Calling the UI placeholders ugly is really an understatement.

  7. Buildings really need proper placement and actual footprints. It's supremely jarring how close the colony vessels can get together and clip like crazy.

  8. There are some really wonky issues involving Radeon graphics. Can you tell that my test platforms are Nvidia and Intel based?

Wow, that's lot.

But it's not overwhelming. I was honestly expecting 90% of the people who showed up to go "hey this is crashing IMMEDIATELY on startup, the console is swearing at me, and your game name is stupid." Which didn't happen. It ran more or less fine on every test machine we got (sans one brave chap who had the gall to try to run it on Wine), and I'm fairly confident that the graphics engine portion of the program is running fine. Which is great news, because that's my baby. What's not fine is all the code that is held together with duct tape, and that's a lot too. There’s a *lot* of that, and most of it is my responsibility.

Continuing with the positive narrative, just about everyone we gave the game and a very rudimentary readme managed to pick it up in a few games. People found it somewhat intuitive, even with all the placeholders and barren UI. We had a lot of feedback from our testers in the vein of "Hey, I like where this is gonna go. Hit me up when it's working/plays better." I find this sort of feedback very encouraging – we have a real, solid, game here. She just needs time to grow and mature. Even though Zero Sum Future was in a rough, unpolished state, people still saw the gem it could be.

Love, time, care. That's all Zero Sum Future needs now. We're at a point in development where polish, love and care is all that's needed for what we want to achieve here.

Which is what's up for the next few weeks. We're gonna gear up for a new "alpha test" as soon as we're able. Some of these development processes are even gonna be documented on the blog. Some won't, because my editor won’t allow me to use colorful language up here.