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We missed our Three Builds to Beta deadline for hitting beta a few weeks back. Moderately depressing, but it served its primary purpose - to focus development on defined milestones and deadlines, rather than everyone getting work done in their own time. We've not hit beta yet, but I don't think we're too far away now. However, on the of the major realisations I had in the last month or so is that not all betas are created equally. Some people think beta means the game is literally ready for release when beta happens and the product only needs polish; others have a more liberal interpretation where the coding is pretty much all done and the primary purpose is to fix crashes and get the balance sorted too. Therefore the "beta" section has been subdivided into phases. Here's my proposed roadmap for getting there and what is involved at each stage: ALPHA: (The period of development where the game is actively under development and is so unfinished that the game / tech tree is deliberately limited so players cannot get too far into the game). V17 - Stability. V17.x should allow us to concentrate on our sprint to beta, so it will not contain any new features and we'll stop releasing new iterations of it once it is confirmed stable. This will give people something to play with while we get on with the work of finishing the alpha. BETA PHASE I: (The game is mechanically complete and the tech tree is fully unlocked. This part of development is focused on balancing the game to the point where it is enjoyable to play and eliminating crash bugs; game mechanics are subject to change during this phase. People who play the game will need to be prepared to deal with frequent crashes, but they'll have far more of a chance to influence the final shape of the game than in any other part of development.) V18 - This build will contain the following items: Full research tree unlocked, allowing the player to get their hands on all in-game armour, weapons, vehicles and aircraft. All projects will have Xenopedia descriptions but not necessarily art. All UFOs / alien bases are spawning the correct items to allow the player to progress along the research tree The final ground combat UI will be in place; effectively it is identical to the current one in functionality but will look prettier. Preview here. We'll have our first try at the Desura file reduction stuff to try and get the build working properly for everyone. The alien base tileset will be properly set up in the game, with some proper maps generated so we can test the map sizes etc to see what works best. Hopefully all the alien sprites will be in the build so there won't be any more invisible / missing aliens. There will be placeholder maps for all UFOs and alien bases (these won't look good but will let you test the difficulty of the number and type of alien within them). During Beta Phase 1, the following will all be added at some point: The final UI screens for all parts of the game will be implemented. This includes the new UI for all the Geoscape screens. The Geoscape map will be revised so it is no longer missing parts of the world, plus more cities will be added to it. All units will be rendered out and put in-game. All the 3D models for the various terrain tiles of all types should be rendered and put in-game, though they may not have been painted over in 2D. All building / prop tiles will be set up in the game correctly, allowing us to catch misset sprite issues before release and allowing people to build maps of their own without risking having the dev team change the sprites Placeholder for final mission. If it's fun, we'll get the map painted up. Lots of bugfixes, to the point the game doesn't crash any more. BETA PHASE II: (The game is enjoyable to play, stable, and can be completed; essentially the game could be released at any point within Beta Phase II, once the art is done. This is the "polishing" phase, where usability issues are addressed, final assets are added or improved and more minor balance issues are addressed - for instance, a particular UFO type might have too many aliens on aboard for its position in the difficulty progression. The game should be fun and shouldn't crash much, but the game mechanics should be pretty much locked down at this point. Lots of PR will happen before this point.) The final artwork for the research will be painted and added, as the Research tree will be locked down at this point (except for research / build times). All ground tiles will receive their 2D paintover. More ground maps will be generated to maximise replayability. The final launcher will be put in place. Finishing the file reduction process to make the game as easy as possible to deal with. Producing an official Soviet Weapon example mod, and looking at community mods to see if any are worth bundling with the game. Adding full tooltips and explanatory pop-ups to the game to make it as easy as possible for new players to learn the game mechanics. Adding various keyboard shortcuts or tweaking the interface to make the game as easy as possible to use, though not changing the functionality. RELEASE: (Woo! We're finally there! At this point we release the game on Steam, stop providing any kind of product support and sail a yacht made of gold to Panama.) If you think there are features I've missed off this roadmap, please list them here and I'll see if they need to slot in somewhere. I'm going to put together a proper project roadmap for the project shortly, that includes the release dates and features for each build we released. Quite possibly linked to a wiki description of that system, so everyone can see at a glance what has changed since they last played. And so if people moan about how development is slow, you can point them at that. Also I figure we can get some PR out of it too.
This is my attempt at a catchy roadmap to the beta stage of the game, as I think having some kind of overarching structure to how we're working towards completion would help. The idea is that we'll have three more major releases until beta. This isn't three Desura releases total - there'll be plenty of hotfixes and minor patches, I'm sure - but three new release versions. What we're shooting for, hopefully, is to be able to announce our beta at the same time as Firaxis release their new X-Com game (9th October - so about two and a half months). We may not succeed at that, but it's something for us to work towards. For those unfamiliar with our plans, the beta will allow the players to play right through the game from start to finish for the first time. It will contain all the enemies and the full tech tree. Basically, we would be able to release the game in that state and call it finished (although it wouldn't necessarily be a good game). During beta we will continue to polish the experience and improve balance, and will add more maps and probably new terrain tiles and possibly one or two new aliens or enemy abilities etc. But the focus of alpha is to get the game mechanics finished, and the purpose of beta is to make the game enjoyable and fun to play. In order to do this, all the following work must be completed (although which build contains what may be subject to change): Build V13 (29 July) - All dropships fully functional and with all required tiles in the game (though Chinook will be the only one available until beta) - Cover in adjacent tiles to shooter is disregarded from the accuracy calculation, so shooting through windows / over walls is much easier - Final mission can be launched from the Geoscape and loads a unique map with unique victory conditions, though map is placeholder - Three day delay before purchased equipment / personnel arrive at a base - Bleeding wounds system for soldiers - Collapsible buildings are in place, where if you shoot out a certain % of the structural walls on a particular level, all walls on that floor and floors above will be destroyed and units within killed - Soldier medal system has been added as is functional (though no way to display them on the Geoscape yet) - The rate at which soldiers gain rank and attribute points is customisable in gameconfig.xml - A unique weapon that isn't in the alpha is added and functional - The C4 charge is in the game as starting equipment - The Flashbang has been added to the game as starting equipment - Middle East and US Desert ground tiles are all added to the game - Middle East and US Desert buildings are modelled in 3D and the unpainted tiles are in-game - Combat shield code is functional and in-game - All renders for the Xenonaut non-power armours are done (possibly except for the combat shield derivatives) - Xenonaut power armour limited to certain (ie. heavy) weapons - Reaper Zombie model is modelled and textured - Advanced buildings code (upgrades for some of the starting structures) is complete - Alien clips are converted into Alenium after battle, rather than sold - Mac port available - AI coder recruited - 3D modeller to work on tileset-specific civilians and AI soldiers recruited Build V14 (19th August / 26th August) - All Xenonaut and civilian renders complete, including vehicles - 3D base tiles for the Arctic tileset buildings are complete - First batch of new levels from level designer are in place - All weapons on the GC have a melee attack function - Air combat UFO weapons have fire arcs settable in a 360 arc (at the moment they always fire forwards) - Air combat battlefield is larger for larger UFOs - Air combat large UFOs have correspondingly larger hitboxes and interceptors will tail them at an appropriate distance, rather than flying "inside" them - Alien psionic powers coded - Reaper Zombie model rigged, animated and rendered - Terror missions have a red Geoscape icon, Alien Bases have a purple Geoscape icon - All Xenopedia text written - Height level LOS issues fixed - New tileset-specific friendly AI soldiers modelled - Linux port available - Firing accuracy formula takes into account windows and hypervelocity projectiles if the weapon is powerful enough to shoot through them and still hit the target Build Beta V1 (9th October) - Soldier Role assignment and auto-equip system - All aliens rendered and in-game - All UFO exterior tiles in place - Soviet Town buildings complete in 3D - Flamethrower - All "in-construction" images for the aircraft and vehicles - Clicking on two icons on Geoscape near to each other beings up selection menu - Majority of Xenopedia art done - New tileset-specific civilians and AI soldiers rigged, animated and rendered - Final game launcher - AI working to a playable (though not necessarily finished) level - Lots and lots and lots of bugfixes So, that's the vague roadmap to beta. It's missing a few things that I'm yet to work out how we'll slot in, notably the new UI and the tiles for the alien base / Xenonaut base / final mission. Nevertheless, if we can hit those targets then I think we'll be in a valid position to say the game has reached beta. Now it's just a question of making that happen
I discovered a couple of weeks ago that the only space when my friends and I had a suitable time in our calendars to go off on holiday together for a couple of weeks was at the end of this month, specifically the 22nd September to 7th October. As the last time I took time off was December, I'm going to be in Thailand for those two weeks. The observant among you will have noticed an issue - V15 / beta is due on 9th October. Hopefully work will not completely grind to a halt with me being away even if I'm not able (or willing) to make it to an internet cafe, but in any case that sort of time was going to be busy anyway. Aaron, currently our tile artist, joins Goldhawk full time on the 8th and we're also moving into a proper office on that day (or renting a couple of desks in someone else's office, to be exact). There's quite a few admin tasks required for both of those things, plus there's the small matter of the release of XCOM on October 9th. So lots going on. The likelihood of V15 coming out on 9th October is therefore somewhat reduced - or certainly the likelihood of it actually being the full beta on 9th October is reduced, if it does come out then. Because of this, I'm happy to release a cut-down V15 next week - probably about Wednesday (giving me a day before my holidays to fix any massive crash bugs) with most of the progress we've made over the last couple of weeks in it, if people want. The likely features would be: - More sprites (all friendly AI soldier sprites and some more Xenonaut ones) - Arctic, Desert and Middle East Tilesets added (though unfinished, so they're bsaically flat and open at the mo) - Chinook spawn maps for all orientations been added to all tilesets - Can shoot over crouched soldiers - Armour degradation with damage - Vehicles have shadows, plus an explosion when destroyed - Pop-up windows on Geoscape (UFO detected etc) are now draggable - Lightmap is realistic and changes with seasons rather than being static - Burst delay tag for each weapon added, which allows you to set the time between each shot in a burst - Psionic powers now fully implemented with animation and sound (just need the AI to start using them now) - Autoclosing doors (at the end of the turn) have been implemented, which we'll use in UFOs / bases Bugfixes: - Aliens no longer run inside walls and objects, making them hard to find / kill - Ground combat saves now work again - Suppression system for burst fire is now per burst, rather than per bullet - Civilians spawn again - Massive strength gain after battle no longer occurring - Lieutenant and Captain ranks no longer switched - LOS bug caused by standing on a roof fixed up We'd then probably put out V16 around about 9th October, which would be the aggregated progress made by the team while I was away, plus more sprite rendering work and GJ's first major AI release. There's still some way to go before beta even if we hit these goals (which we probably will), but we're making good progress. It also occurs to me that what we initially advertised as "beta" - ie, it's possible to play the feature complete (if not asset complete) game from start to finish - probably wouldn't be a good thing to advertise too much. I think we may need a couple of weeks of sort of alpha-deluxe before we hit beta, because the game will almost certainly be a bit of a broken, unbalanced, buggy mess for the first couple of weeks of "beta". You forumgoers are used to that, but the last thing I want to do is do a big publicity drive and get a load of new customers to try the game and conclude it's terrible. I imagine it'll be markedly better after a few weeks of tweaks and bugfixes. So apologies for the delays, but I think the "Three Builds to Beta" schedule has got us pretty close to where we want to be even if we've not quite hit every milestone in it.
I was just going through the progress update thread and saw where Chris talked about what had been added so far. What I'm wondering is, what still needs to be done before the game is ready to release? I haven't played much of the alpha (beta?) but when I start it up what I see is a game that pretty much looks complete. I'm not an X-COM expert so I wouldn't notice the missing details. The only thing I notice is that I'm playing on the same map every time. So what else needs to get done?