Hello Firefall Fans,
Welcome back to another edition of the Firefall Development Update. Last week was a short week for all of us here at Red 5 due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We hope that those you that celebrated Thanksgiving had a great time and were able to reconnect with family and friends. We are rolling into the last few days of development for this milestone and going into what we call Feature Lock-Down. As such, this is a great time to talk about development process at Red 5.
Some of you may not be familiar with what we mean when we talk about “milestones” and how that affects you as a player of the game. A milestone is generally a collection of features that the entire team is working on for a major patch release. Over the last few months, we’ve been working towards asynchronous milestones meaning that we can release more features more often as they are not waiting for every task to be complete from all teams before the patch can be released. Some features have dependencies that require us to hold them back until the entire feature set is complete, but our hope is that we can release content on a more consistent basis through our two-week patching cycle.
The current milestone that we are working on is scheduled for release in January, but we are in Feature Lock-Down in December.
We go into Feature Lock-Down to ensure that we have enough time to polish and stabilize the game before it goes out. This lock-down means that all features we plan to ship at the end of the milestone are in our internal build; fully testable; with all art assets, sounds, and content included. It is important that all content is in the game and does not require any special commands or dev cheats in order to access. We should be able to play through the entire experience just as a player would.
This lock-down does not necessarily mean things are completely bug free. After we lock down the build, the entire team goes into bug bash mode. We all play the game as much as possible to find as many bugs as possible and then spend all our time prioritizing and fixing those bugs to prepare the build for launch.
After we’re able to get the bug count to a reasonable level or at least the critical and higher bugs down, we generally branch the build into a separate environment so that any members of the team that don’t have bugs they can work on can continue with whatever work they need to do while everyone else keeps pounding away at the milestone build. This process can take weeks depending on the complexity of the features, the amount of content, and the number of bugs.
We then try to release it to our Public Test Server environment to make it available for all of you to help find any major issues we just weren’t able to discover on internal servers.
With the Christmas and New Year holidays coming up between now and the milestone release, many people will be taking some well-deserved vacation time. However, a good number of people will be volunteering to stick it out through the holidays to put the finishing touches on everything. When we return from break, we’ll continue our bug bash process until we’re confident that the build is ready for the production environment.
This milestone includes a lot of new features and new systems that will make 2014 a very exciting year for Firefall. We’re finally reaching the point where our tools and understanding of our capabilities and limitations puts us in a good place to focus on content creation. The start of our story-based campaign will be coming online, followed shortly after by the expansion of Diamondhead, and the introduction of new wandering encounters and the Arc System mentioned a few updates ago.
It’s been a roller coaster of a year for Red 5 and Firefall. There have been a lot of laughs, a lot of screams, and a little bit of crying. 2014 does not signify the end of the ride by any means. Things will hopefully get smoother, but the thrills will get more intense. We have a lot left to do and we want to thank each and every one of you for being a part of this adventure. Now it’s time to get back in line for the next run.