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Dev Diary 25 :: 2016 :: December
Alrighty...I'm going to release this dev blog a bit early to make up for being a day late on the other two. I'm also going to make up for it with a lot more information and details ahead!

Before the list, I want to state that there is a hell of a lot of things going on in the background outside of work you are presented with, far beyond what you're presented with on weak weekly dev blogs at times. This is because sometimes I believe it's just not a good time to bring up certain topics to steer away the focus from the primary development we are working on, or don't have the time to go into detail about them.

This is a huge month though, in fact I feel like while the amount of content getting released soon won't be a record-breaker, this month is a huge stepping stone in preparations for 2017 and what we bring to you. After a hellish year last year with so many migration issues, and development imbalances over the course, I'm excited at the thought of just what is possible for next year.

2016, The Life and Survival of IOU
I feel like it's a good time for me to speak up on the good, the bad, and the ugly of this year.

Throughout migration, the offline gains initial release (where kills no longer mattered), we lost a chunk of players but have still held a strong and dedicated user-base outside of some rather poor (or poor timing) choices on my end. While the growth remained stagnant after those issues for a while now, it appears we are on an upward climb again...and we still have yet to publish publish publish. The minor bits of engagement focuses definitely do make a difference, and there's an incredibly vast amount of room for improvement in that regard.

While it should be obvious IOU needs to keep bringing in new players at least here and there, there should be no misconception that the players who have stuck around since the beginning are the reason this game survived through some seriously rough waters this year.

It's incredible to me that players have stuck around an Idle game for so long, that when people tell me they are quitting it's almost a reaction of surprise because as a gamer, I certainly never stuck around game's for year(s) like this. That being said I completely understand some players quitting because they are tired of waiting, or the game is not going in the direction they anticipated.

I'll never make everyone happy, and I will continue making mistakes...So in any case, I appreciate community for all their dedication, even the thorns (You know who you are). 
A lot of you long-term players have put up with an incredible amount of hell throughout IOU's life thus far.

This year could have been worse, but it could have been much better, and I expect with all the improvements over the last few months that it would be pretty hard to move in any direction but forward in 2017.

Community Competition
Participation rewards were sure a big pain in the ass to give out, but admittedly I want people to have a sense of accomplishment. I won't be able to give participation rewards every ComComp, but keep in mind there's always potential for gratitude and reward for your work in helping improve IOU.

Participation rewards were doubled, and all rewards being given have been handed out at this point.

Thank you everyone who participated, and sorry if you spent any time voting or discussing votes. In the end it made sense for me to just handle the wins with my own bias as opposed to community bias, where there was too much room for exploitation.

A new ComComp might make it in a couple weeks, but keep in mind just how busy things are right now.

RPG Event
I can't believe how the entire user-base absolutely LOVED this event and all its interactions! ...Oh wait.

This was a neat experiment, and even better to discover the user-base's feelings towards heavier interactions within the game on full throttle. That being said you can rest assured this will be under constant consideration in the future.

Santa Event
In the meantime, enjoy a braindead-relaxed event coming up! I've made changes to make it even more laid back, and significantly more rewarding than last year.

Black Friday
The Black Friday bit is coming to an end on December 10th. You should assume that it's over by the 9th. I will not be re-enabling any packs (paid or free) after it is taken down. Firm.

New Years
Looking at a small New Years surprise. This entails potentially the first very simple mostly-passive global event in IOU, one that will be our pre-testing to the capabilities of Global Beasts, Guild Rehauls, and other features of a more powerful collaborative game-play. I think it'll be a great way to end and start 2016/2017. 

Note: There are no plans for packs (free or paid), or diamond spending. This tiny event is intended to be a fun little experiment.

The development time on this is expected at to be one Day for Ray and Jay, so don't worry about being set back, Eh?

Exact release time unknown. No point in asking for a while.

Recharge and Exp bonuses are being taken down and replaced. You'll see what with after the patch release! I'm avoiding hype and headache by not releasing that information until release.

Challenges, Series & Level 1000+
While there's a never ending amount of ideas behind where challenges will lead in the long-run, I can tell you right now we are looking at re-balancing challenge series to scale more quickly in difficulty.

BUT! Chill out, I'm not finished! Don't go spamming us on Discord, Tickets, Facebook, Forum and Emails yet...

We are likely looking at reducing the difficulty slightly for non-series challenges, and adding two new difficulties. Platinum, which would release at level 500, and Ragestone, at 1000.

Before this however, the UI needs a significant clean-up. Plenty of great ideas from the PIC Competition Smile

New Logo & Loading Screen
New loading screen/logo coming with this next patch. I'm pretty excited for it, just being looks or not, it's a major improvement in my eyes and I'll be a lot more proud to show it off.

Expedition System
Player ships?: Check
Battlestation?: Check
Battlestation background?: Check

After this patch release, I'm going to get everything going with the 2nd half of the expedition release and get things rolling onto test as soon as possible. 

Unfortunately we had a few issues and distractions along the way but we should be good to get a move-on again, albeit behind schedule but it's not like progress hasn't been made in several areas.

Optimizations / Challenge Lag
Somewhere along the way challenge lag came back with a vengeance. This being one of the distractions as of late in terms of the expedition system progress, has been interesting to say the least.

First, I spent a lot of time breaking down -everything- in the servers, and debugged for many many hours. I discovered a lot of interactions going on during Connect and Disconnect, which appears to be where all the major spikes occur, including ghosts. 

Ghosted players are legitimately an AI version of you running your account, but the kicker is that it shouldn't require much processing for all the offline players. Instead I discovered a lot more going on with database transactions, timers, etc that shouldn't have been, and major improvements have been made in that regard.


Second, we have always had an issue with trying to run rooms individually to avoid one room affecting other rooms (or crashing all rooms for that matter). One issue with this was that we ran a unique connectionpool to the database for every single room. This generally lead to a disgusting amount of connections for one dedication machine to handle, especially when several rooms are created or shut down around the same time.

What we have done instead is created a central connection pool communicator that handles transactions for every single room. This was a rather big change with how we handled things before, and we're going to try running with it in this upcoming patch.

If things don't work out on the first push of these changes (which have been on testing a while now), then we have designed a quick way to switch it back until we can clean up whatever issues arise (if any).

There has been so many optimizations/cleanups with the development of this upcoming patch, that I will likely declare a few hour potential downtime upon release.


All that being said, we're very hopeful this will improve the lag issues astronomically.

World-wide availability!
Right now all the servers (game servers, webhost, balance loading authentication scripts) are being hosted in the USA. 

However, we are in the works of setting things up on a CDN for at least the assets/authentication portions. This means people around the world who play will have a much better access to files and calls for a much quicker download time. 

It's a big step in the direction we are aiming for, which will eventually also include servers hosted around the world, and being able to set where your party room, or challenge room is hosted (North America, Europe, Asian, etc). Who needs 500+ ping anyways?

Next month i'll have some announcements on plans ahead for the year, beyond the community surveys.

I now have all the assets for worlds 1-10, all backgrounds and monsters.

For those who are used to the existing monsters, I'm giving a heads's going to be a system shock, but this rehaul was announced a looong time ago, and for the purpose of being able to begin preparing the game/assets for multiple resolutions for cross-device support.

Show and Tell
I was going to show the new ship(s), the battle station, and some of the new assets ahead but i'll leave that up for further dev blogs, or simply just release them!


It has been a really nice year weather-wise but winter has finally settled in. Grey-day Schedule:  Monday to Sunday. Nothing but gloom.

I have mentioned it before in discord, but i'll mention it again. I'm one of those weird people that are completely and utterly affected by the weather, and winter throws me into a pretty big ball of depression and lethargy. I tried to be around as much as I could to respond to people throughout the weekend but my work-efforts on development since Friday were pretty minimal as I felt like I needed to take a bit of a break and try to adjust to the fact that the next few months are just going to be cold and gloomy.

I still have a few things to discuss for the last week and what's going on this week.

  1. Expedition System
    I'm working out the starting UI still, as there's quite a bit going on for this system. I can tell you now though that there are 67 challenge ships set up (took forever) that I have utilized commercial assets for. These will NOT be daily task challenges, but one-time completions. Once you defeat the challenge ship, you will receive nice rewards to upgrade your ship[s] (among other rewards) and get to anticipate the next ship. I'm comfortable with the fact that players may never ever defeat the 67th ship. I feel like some systems need that piece of anticipation to defeat something no one else ever has, whether it takes 3 months or a year to move forward.

    As for PvP, people are definitely anxious about this. Since it's not in testing yet, it is very subject to change, but let me describe the plans:
    -You can battle ~10 players a day around your rank
    -Defeating a player above your rank places you at their rank and sets them 1 rank below you
    -The battles will be PvPAI (Player vs Player AI)
    -The strategy is your build, as you will not make in-combat decisions, as this will allow you to skip previewing the battle if you don't care and just want to see the result. I don't want this new mode to be a time consuming grind
    -Each battle will yield resource rewards, so win or lose you aren't at a complete loss.
    -There will be rewards every <x> period based on your rank (once every 1-2 weeks?) with new resources for upgrading your ship, and I'm looking at having resources that you can use to craft non-expedition upgrades (such as a new idle damage bonus).

    The rewards will likely be milestone based, where the top 25 receive TIER 1, the top 26-100 receive TIER 2, the 101-250 receive tier 3, etc.

    My goal for this system is for it to be fun and allow players to compete without too much concern over the rewards, as they'll just be a nice boost to resources that you should otherwise be able to obtain via expeditions. This is aimed to be a nice test-run with the PvP and once we see how it sits with the community we can scale it to an appropriate level.

    While I suspect we'll have much of this running by xmas, it could be in testing for a while depending on the outlook from testers. 
  2. Legendary System
    A great discussion was held in discord regarding level 1000+, and how players have been penalized time and time again for reaching high levels with new hindrances yet no new content. The first end-game based feature will be released in January, parallel to the community vote, giving top players and those under 1k something to actually look forward to, and give purpose to leveling once again.

    Aside from that we'd like to look at existing upgrades at some point to give players level 200+ something better to invest into again.
  3. Challenge Lag
    I keep making massive optimization changes, but it hasn't affected challenges positively. I have gone through so many reviews of this that I'm going to tazmanian devil my last grey hairs out.

    I think I discovered something interesting tonight though that debunked a lot of my theories. It appears that the lag affects high-end players far more significantly. Players who have insane speed with nothing but a screenful of attacks non-stop. I was not able to reproduce the lag on a lower level character. I also wasn't able to reproduce the severity of lag that players were experiencing, on their characters, on the exact same server. This tells me almost for a fact that this is related to the amount of data and the frequency of it hitting the clients, as during these lag spikes the servers load was optimal (honestly, there was no delay in the processing whatsoever during these challenge tests)

    Tonight I made a pretty big optimization to how packets are built and sent on the server that may or may not help the situation, but beyond that I'm looking at creating a speed-limit restriction on attacks (auto, idle, pet).

    Before you freak out, Yin / Yang (and Chang, but he wasn't invited...). The idea would be to increase your damage output by the same rate that we slow down your attacks to attempt to keep the output as equal as possible. I think this will resolve a lot of issues for euro (and other non NA players), along with resolve the challenge lag for many.
I haven't included everything going on (such as CDN progress, linux progress [for more powerful servers at the same cost in preparations for global features ahead], bingo, etc), but contrary to my slight slow down the last few days, things are still moving.


I've just been tying some loose year-ends this last week, mostly regarding the server stability, and after a lot of time investment I think we finally have an incredibly improved server build to be officially released with the upcoming patch. 

I have been constantly running test builds on the live game environment, running a significant portion of the rooms on the new server build to discover after the last few days that this new build we're about to release should reduce the challenge lag (to the point of 1-5+ second spikes), room instabilities, and more.

There's a few other things coming with this new patch, which I expect will be released Tuesday or Wednesday.

Beyond that, stay tuned.


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