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December 09, 2019, 02:03:00 PM

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Mjeno
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« Reply #40 on: November 04, 2018, 10:26:26 AM »

Development log #155

It’s been a big week at simulogics HQ. There is now a concrete plan for the next couple of months of Prosperous Universe in terms of its different phases, tests, features, and even its monetization model. First Access starts in about a month. Find out below what that means and what comes next!


Michi (molp)

My week began with a short two day visit to the new simulogics HQ. Besides some organizational issues Martin and I resolved, we discussed the upcoming alpha release and a feature roadmap for the time after.

As you might know, joining the alpha currently works by saying ‘hi!’ on the forums. The forums account is also the game account. This mechanism has worked well for the first few tests: we could control how many players we let in and we could easily reach them for surveys via the forum. The downside of it was that we had to manually add a role in the forum and in our player database to allow access to the game itself.

In the next test we want way more players in the game and adding them by hand would be cumbersome. So we decided to use game keys and a streamlined sign-up process that does all that without the need that one of us has to do a manual step.

For this to work we need a new backend service that allows us to create game keys that will give a player access to a specific test. We will be creating these keys in batches and give them away on websites and social media. The service also has to register which keys have been redeemed and provide some basic internal statistics and so on.

Martin and I quickly brainstormed a (technical) interface for this service and decided that I would implement it, while Martin was working on the sign-up process at the same time. This is basically what I did for the rest of the week, after coming back from simulogics HQ.


Julian (Mjeno)

Today, instead of telling you what I’ve been up to, let me give you a glimpse into the future:

We’ve spent a few months now working on the game without knowing exactly when we were going to launch the next test, what it was going to encompass, and at what point we would start monetizing (and how exactly). This week, we finally made some big decisions concerning all these questions. The sixth test, starting in early December, will mark the start of our “First Access” phase. The test won’t run as long as Alpha #5 has, and First Access is most likely going to encompass a few more, shorter tests. The tests will be closed, meaning that players will need to obtain a key to gain access to a test. Alternatively, it will be possible to buy access to the whole First Access phase. When First Access is over, after a few months, we’re going to go into Early Access. The main differences between the two phases will include the addition of a Dominance system, some military meta-game aspects, the distinction between paid subscription accounts and free accounts and, thus, that the game will no longer be closed when Early Access comes around. The game world will be reset between test runs in these phases. With the start of the post-reset era, the game will be fully released and Early Access will end. Of course, this is just an arbitrary distinction in that the game will continue to be actively developed, improved, and extended afterwards.

Going back to the near future. Before the beginning of First Access, I will make sure to get the wiki ready, create updated video tutorials, and prepare key give-aways via various MMO websites. That’s what I’ll start doing tomorrow!

PS: I haven’t forgotten about promising to share the results of my SEO research. On Monday, de decided which measures we are going to take. I’ll wait how that turned out and will get back to the topic with an extended write-up of our findings.


Martin

As Michi has already mentioned, we sat together at the beginning of the week primarily to discuss organizational stuff. But we also spent some time both on technical and conceptual brainstorming.

The technical parts Michi already discussed: We’ll streamline the sign-up process to allow easier access for more players. But there is a lot more to it beyond just that since we will also prepare all the backend and auxiliary systems for an actual release. Or in other words: We want to be ready to actually charge money so that after pretty much exactly three years of uninterrupted development, Prosperous Universe can finally start to earn some revenue.

Reaching that point before the end of the year is my job. This week I got started taking care of low-hanging fruit and added some basic but mandatory account management features to our “hub”. You can already “check them out” here if you have an account (and if you don’t you can create one right there as well). I then went on translating the things I discussed with Michi at the HQ into tasks for the coming weeks.

If all goes well, we will be ready for First Access in early December. We’ll keep you posted!

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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Mjeno
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« Reply #41 on: November 11, 2018, 09:48:08 AM »

Development log #156

Hey everyone, this week’s log will be slightly different from our usual ones. If you’re the type of person who likes a game like Prosperous Universe, you’re most likely good with numbers. And in that case you’ll have noticed that this is development log number “3 * 52”. Due to this significant if arbitrary anniversary, the honor is mine this week to give you a brief look at what we’ve accomplished so far and - more importantly - what lies ahead.


Martin

Three years is a long time!
Let’s get this out of the way first: Three years is a crazy long time! And to be perfectly honest, we wanted to be further than we are at this point. Nevertheless, we’re beyond happy that we made it this far and that we managed to keep the company afloat and the development running continuously since late 2015. In that time, we’ve grown the team both here and over at AirlineSim and we’ve found a mode of operation that might be somewhat slow but is stable and works for us!

We were busy!
While we had early prototypes ready in 2016 already, we spent a lot of time on making Prosperous Universe the quirky, special beast it is: We completely rewrote the whole UI code (at least) once to get it where it is today. We worked countless hours on the features that form the very foundation of the game to make sure they work even after the “no reset” release. We might have lost a bit of time to occasional onsets of feature creep…but hey, we’re just human, too! All in all, I think we created a robust base for very, very cool stuff to come in the near and long-term future!

Time to get serious! Time for “First Access”!
This has been all nice and dandy, but after three years and five closed alpha tests we are more than ready to finally take everything a step further. Cue the “First Access” release!

Never heard the term? This is what it means to us: * For the first time, everyone will be able to join the game by just creating an account and becoming a licensee (more on that below) instead of having to ask on the forums. * The release will introduce some pretty big new features, namely Corporations and Planetary Projects. * The game will still be very much in development - more alpha then beta - and several resets like during the alpha tests can and most likely will occur.

But most importantly, this will be a “release” in the sense that you will be able to become a First Access Licensee to support the development of Prosperous Universe. We don’t have a publisher, we don’t have any investors and generally we don’t have anyone telling us what to do or not to do. But this independence comes at the price of always running low on money. With this release, we ask you for your help in getting Prosperous Universe across the finishing line.

More details will follow, but we will offer different tiers ranging from very basic access throughout the First Access phase to more pricey packs offering a range of perks, including your permanent place in the credits of the game!

And last but not least: Anyone who’s participated in our alpha tests so far will get basic First Access for free as a kind of early adopter bonus!

Onwards to Early Access
We intend the First Access phase to last at least half a year but judging from previous experience, it might take a tad longer than that. During that time we’ll add what we tend to call the “killer features” internally: The features that finally add the exciting and complex meta game that PrUn is essentially about. Once these are completed, we will switch into Early Access with the main difference being that the game will be free to play for anyone but will offer the full range of features to paying licensees only (no worries: old-school freemium, not micro-transactions or pay-2-win!).

And with this, I conclude this little anniversary special! If you like our project, please consider becoming a First Access Licensee in December. We massively appreciate your support! Until then feel free to join us on the forums! and let us know what you think!

Happy trading!
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Mjeno
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« Reply #42 on: November 18, 2018, 04:55:11 PM »

Development log #157

With mere weeks to go until the next, massive test run, the team is working on all fronts to get the game ready for First Access.


Michi (molp)

With the upcoming First Access release, everyone is working feverishly to finish up all their tasks. I got lucky this week and could finish two things:

The backend of the key server is done. Since Martin is currently working on the integration of our billing system, the user backend, the key server and the game (short: the hub Smiley), I expect that a few issues and minor changes will be inevitable, but hopefully nothing major.

The other finished thing is the Corporation Headquarters feature. Here is its short description from the game:

Corporation Headquarters are the first project a newly founded corporation has to built in order to function properly. Headquarters have to be built on a planet outside faction space and will provide a 10% production boost to all members on that planet.

The HQ can now be built by the members of a corporation. The building process works like a planetary project (meaning everyone can contribute building materials) but is obviously limited to corporation members. As soon as the HQ is finished, it grants a 10% production bonus on every production line on that planet, independent of the industry.


Building the HQ


A production line with the Corporation HQ efficiency modifier


Martin

As Michi already mentioned, working with a hard deadline for a big release seems to somewhat increase our productivity. But still: Given the length of our to-do list I won’t spend much time on the devlog this week and give you the quickest rundown possible. My work on the “hub” continued and I

  • finished all pages required for the basic payment flow,
  • put our First Access tiers into code (including enforcing limits on how often a certain tier can be purchased),
  • made sure that cancelled payments are dealt with correctly in the hub,
  • made the hub publish the latest state of a user account to the game and
  • started integrating all of the above into the game server so it knows which access level a user has etc:

And with that, back to work. See you next week!


Julian (Mjeno)

This week, I’ve been writing tutorials! As I mentioned before, the upcoming test will feature a wiki alongside our usual video tutorials, for those who prefer reading to watching. So far, I’ve been adapting the existing ones to the written form and creating gifs and pictures to support the text. Once that’s all done, I will start creating new tutorials - both videos and texts - for all the new content.

Beside the wiki, I’ve been working on our so-called support tier matrix. You might already know that we’ll be avoiding microtransactions in favor of a monthly subscription fee for premium features. This means that we’re capping strictly what each player will be able to spend each month, which is sort of a bad business practice. Hence, we decided to give players who want to spend more the possibility of purchasing supporter packs, which are essentially the same thing as Kickstarter tiers. We’ve been doing our best to avoid pay-to-win rewards and have filled up the goodie bags with cosmetic rewards instead, which will increase a player’s prestige in the game and community rather than providing an unfair advantage. Coming up with and balancing these rewards has taken up a good chunk of my week.

Last but definitely not least, my article on 80.lv was published and made quite a splash (for our standards). It’s been generelly well-received and brought a bunch of attention to Prosperous Universe and new players to our forums, which is great. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out if you’re interested in the history and inspirations behind the game as well as the question: How to make a game that’s just a UI?

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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Mjeno
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« Reply #43 on: November 25, 2018, 09:47:26 AM »

Development log #158

After months of working towards the next release on different fronts, the team is finally piecing it all together: game design, technical implementation, distribution methods, learning resources etc. So far, it all seems to fall into place nicely.



Michi (molp)

I spent a big chunk of my time this week on refining the Material Editor. That’s the internal tool we design Prosperous Universe’s world, material and resources with. The actual game design is done by Alex, but as he progresses, more and more issues and change requests surface.

Alex designed a lot of items that won’t be in the game in the next alpha (like player-built space stations, ship parts and so on), so he has a better perspective on where we’re going with the tech tree. Of course we don’t want these items to be exported and therefore visible in the game since they’d be useless at that point and only add confusion. So I added some simple tools to exclude materials, buildings and production recipes from being exported.

Alex also finished the new starting profiles players can choose when setting up their company and I integrated them into the game. We will have at least five such profiles. Compared to the profiles from the last test, they will provide more resources and allow to set up a few buildings right away. We will provide descriptions of each of those starting profiles in our wiki.


Martin

I picked up where I left last week and wrapped up the majority of the payment and First Access features of the hub. All that’s missing now is content and polish, which I’ll probably leave for the final days before the release in December.

With that out of the way, I switched my attention to the operational setup of the test cluster. A lot of things have changed since I last dealt with the topic and we also had to made a call on which platform we finally want to go with (own bare-metal servers vs. VMs vs. Platform-as-a-Service). Once the decision was made, I started to adjust our setup, build pipeline and documentation to get everything ready for internal testing as early as possible. As of writing this, the new setup wasn’t quite complete yet, but it’s getting there.


Julian (Mjeno)

I’ve mostly continued creating content for our wiki this week. I had a call with Alex a few days ago and realized that so much has changed in the game’s design and the way players start out, that I’ll need to pretty much completely rework the introductory tutorials, both the written ones and the videos. Believe it or not, this has come as a bit of a surprise to me; a welcome one because a I love the changes themselves, but also a troubling one because it means I have so much more to do before launch than I anticipated. Even though we are a small company, we’re not always in the loop about everything everybody else is doing, since there is very little redundancy, and we only coordinate what’s necessary and at the appropriate times. That’s why we’ve been chipping away on our own respective blocks, and it’s only really all coming together now, as the next big release draws close.

Anyway, I bought a teleprompter this week, which will be a big improvement in my video creation workflow. I’ll show you some WIP footage from the upcoming recording sessions once it’s all set up. Sorry for keeping it brief this week, there’s just so much left to do. Back to work! (:

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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Mjeno
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« Reply #44 on: December 02, 2018, 01:32:47 PM »

Development log #159

Naturally, this log is mostly about the final preparations for our upcoming First Access release. But there is great news that we are very happy to share first: Michi’s second child was born this week! This brings the amount of children born to team members during the development of Prosperous Universe to three. So congratulations to Michi and enjoy the first days with your latest family member!


Martin

My schedule this week was packed: As is often the case during the final phase of testing, every ticket I closed resulted in several new ones I opened. So that kept me busy for several days alone. But I also started deploying the latest version of our backend systems required for the First Access launch, including a small service written by Michi that we’ll use to generate and track keys and as well as the payment-enabled version of the “hub”. Just as planned I also finalized the setup of our production cluster but ran into issues at the end of the week when the Platform-as-a-Service provider we went with screwed up the setup… the pros and cons of buy vs. make. Anyway, I hope all these issues will be resolved over the course of the coming week so every required piece will be in place for our release!


Julian (Mjeno)

Like last week, this one has mostly been a continuation of my three main tasks before First Accees: writing to press and influencers, getting the wiki and tutorials ready, and designing the supporter packs that will become available upon launch.

For the wiki and tutorials, it was very helpful to be granted access to an online, almost complete version of the game in order to capture some footage. Instead of writing new content, I focused on making the existing tutorials better these past few days. Especially the introduction to the game, which used to be overly long, disordered and somewhat filled with unnecessary content compared to its new incarnation. I have now finished writing everything and on Monday, I will start shooting the new video tutorials.

Apart from that, we decided on a First Access release date (TBA very soon), added a whole bunch of new rewards to our Kickstarter-like supporter packages, and I’m currently awaiting the final cut for our teaser trailer. That’s all I can tell you today; the rest either isn’t news or will be kept secret for a few more days. Wink

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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Mjeno
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« Reply #45 on: December 09, 2018, 12:21:06 PM »

Development log #160

The time has come: First Access will launch on December 13th! It will be the day that Prosperous Universe becomes acessible to everybody. The current version was already opened to testers of previous alphas on Thursday, who are busy laying the economical groundworks for the imminent launch.


Martin

In the week of our soft-launch I had to deal with some last minute issues that turned out to be a lot more complex than I initially thought:

Firstly, we realized that our new managed chat channel feature that automatically creates channels for all members of a corporation or all site owners of a planet was working just fine, but that the respective listings in the COM tile of the UI were completely meaningless to the players. There would simply be a new group chat item in the list with the names of the first few users on the channel, but that’s it. Especially for planet-wide chats that was very confusing. So I added in a feature to actually display names for the channels which took some rewiring because up until now, channel names weren’t a thing.

Secondly, I had to track down an annoying bug that would regularly halt production despite all requirements being met… something that would be a rather unpleasant to have in the release version. Unfortunately, my investigation into the problem uncovered a fundamental design flaw in the population simulation code which took me far too many hours to correct.

Anyway, as all existing alpha testers know, we still made the “release” on the evening of the sixth! Once that was dealt with, I switched back to backend stuff required for the actual release next week for which we will finally enable payment and open registration to everybody.

Last but not least, I spent today working on a much-requested company reset feature. Many people naturally make beginner’s mistakes when first dipping their toe into PrUn’s ice-cold water. But so far, you can’t reset your account to start over. Implementing this is a lot less trivial than it sounds so it’ll take a few more days to complete. You’ll most likely read about that on my next log…


Julian (Mjeno)

It’s been a very busy week on my end as well, both due to our soft-launch on Thursday the 6th and the upcoming First Access release on Thursday 13th. I’ve been helping our new players out with questions about the game (as the Community Manager) while preparing communication with the press next week (as the PR guy). Another big task has been to write the scripts and shoot the footage for our new tutorial videos. This time, I also documented the whole process and put it all together in a little “behind the scenes” video, which you can watch below.





All that remains to be said before launch is: Keep an eye on your mailbox on Thursday if you subscribed to our newsletter or previously created a Prosperous Universe account. And maybe, just maybe, keep the other eye open for any third-party key-giveaways towards the end of the week.

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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Mjeno
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« Reply #46 on: December 16, 2018, 10:17:04 AM »

We have a lift-off! Beer!

After three years of development, Prosperous Universe has finally opened its doors to the public this week. Like many before us, we have opted for an early, in-development release. The First Access phase will allow us to build a community early, integrate player feedback and help fund the game's development until its full release. Read our official announcement below or scroll down to the more personal weekly devlog.

The space economy simulation Prosperous Universe has officially launched First Access on December 13th, thus opening its doors to the public for the first time after three years of development. Players are now able to purchase a key for the First Access phase, which will run for several months and encompass numerous test runs. The goals of First Access are to build a community early, integrate player feedback and help fund the game's development until the full release.

Check out the brand-new cinematic trailer:





Prosperous Universe is a real-time business simulation MMO set in the not-so-distant future. You are the CEO of your own spacefaring company – explore the galaxy, design spaceships, forge alliances, and most importantly: produce, trade, transport, and profit. Manage your business through a highly customizable user interface named APEX, accessible via web browser. Contribute to a purely player-driven MMO economy in a persistent universe allowing for a multitude of play styles with no grind to speak of. With its emphasis on realism in everything from the economy to space travel, Prosperous Universe provides a unique experience to players of all backgrounds.

German independent game studio simulogics started development on Prosperous Universe in 2015, over a decade after the launch of their first, still active MMO AirlineSim. The game's artworks are created by Maciej Rebisz, Senior Concept Artist at CD Projekt Red. After First Access, the game will become free to play with the option to buy premium game time (a “Pro License”) to unlock all features. Microtransactions and pay-to-win will have no place in Prosperous Universe. The single, massive game world of Prosperous Universe will no longer be reset after the game's full launch.

For more information, visit our website or our presskit() page. If you would like to join the community, we would be happy to welcome you in our forum and on our Discord server.

To play the game, sign up here, and check out the Handbook and video tutorials:






----------------

Development log #161


Martin

This week was a wild ride: After so many years of development behind closed doors, we finally opened the door to the public. I was more than a little excited when we flipped the switch! So far, the numbers look promising and the game seems to be running quite well from a technical point of view.

It’s hard to list exactly what I actually did this week: It included work on all fronts, like preparing the changes to the website so people find the game, activating and monitoring the payment system, helping to spread the word about the release, fixing the first reported bugs and implementing early feedback and of course playing the game myself a little bit. I also went on a two-day business trip at the absolute worst imaginable time for such a thing, but nothing blew up while I was gone so I’m not complaining!

Anyhow, I’m back to the post-release battlefield!


Julian (Mjeno)

Wow, what a week. I’ve already decided that I’ll do an extensive write-up of all that’s happened for our fellow indies when the post-release madness has died down a bit. But for now, here’s the brief version. Before you read on, though, check out our long-awaited first trailer above!

If you just want to learn how to play the game now, follow this link. If you want to listen to the ramblings of a sleep-deprived PR & Community Manager, stick around!

First off, I have to say that I wasn’t as well-prepared as I thought, or at least I underestimated the work that still needed to be done upon launch. On the press front, I had gathered a ton of contacts and pre-written the most important texts. I had a list of game keys ready to send out. I had gotten in touch with a few websites and influencers weeks ahead of time to ask them if they wanted to play the game or organize giveaways when the time came. I had compiled lists of subreddits, Facebook groups, online game lists, and more places to post our announcement. Despite all this, I didn’t get the word out as fast as I thought I would, and I’m still working on it three days later despite pulling 12-hour shifts since Wednesday.

On the bright side, the launch still went pretty well so far, and it’s just our first (and least important) of three launches, the other ones being Early Access and the full release. I learned a lot this week that I will know for the next two. More importantly, the coverage and community response we already got is very positive. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of certain metrics (website traffic, game and newsletter sign-ups, supporter packs sold, trailer views etc.), but we’re positively surprised how much attention the game has garnered despite the fact that we haven’t gotten much press yet. The latter was to be expected with a launch that close to the weekend, but I am also expecting one or two sites to pick up the story throughout next week. Some sites have picked it up already, first and foremost the ones doing key giveaways for our game, and some have confirmed to me that they are going to post an article.

Two major factors made the week more stressful than it needed to be: First, my failure to anticipate the amount of time that would go into community management once the game went live. At this point, I’d like to give a shoutout to all the players voluntarily helping newcomers in the game. You guys are the best! Second, the fact that I only made the video tutorials this week. Last time we launched a new version, it was just an alpha test, and I finished making the video tutorials the day before. It worked then, but it didn’t work now, and I’ll never again finish making the tutorials in our launch week. If you’re wondering why making tutorials is such a big deal, maybe this little “making of” video will shed some light on the topic:


Anyway. Quite a few people are playing the game now, and the community is really active and communicative, which is awesome. I could watch all the little space ships flying around my home system all day:


But alas, there’s no time for that! Luckily, I was wise enough not to have any plans whatsoever for almost a week after launch, and I’m starting to think that getting the word out about it will easily fill up that time on its own.

Wow, this wasn’t as brief as I thought it would be, even though I have left out so much. I’ll tell you more in the extensive write-up in a few weeks!

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
« Last Edit: December 16, 2018, 10:22:10 AM by Mjeno » Logged

Mjeno
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« Reply #47 on: December 23, 2018, 07:21:53 AM »

Development log #162

As the first small patches are being rolled out, some underlying issues have surfaced. Nonetheless, the first few hundred players seem to be enjoying themselves, as this week has been very lively both in and around the game!


Martin

My first week after the release was dominated by fixing smaller bugs and adding the most often requested improvements. All in all it was mostly small stuff and you can find a detailed list in our release notes. One bigger topic was the implementation of self-service account deletions because it required modifications to three independent systems.

As a side-effect of this week’s update we also stumbled across a fairly fundamental issue in our serialization code. The serialization code takes in-memory objects and serializes them so they can be written to the database for storage. The operating mode of our game server is that is typically only ever writes to the database. Only when the server restarts or a game entity (like a company) needs to be reloaded for another reason (for example when it is moved to another cluster node) it reloads its state by applying all the events that occurred in the past. When that happens, the previously serialized events need to be deserialized again. Obviously, the schema used to write and to read the events needs to be the same, otherwise you read garbage into memory. And that’s pretty much what happened in some cases here: We traded quick development speed for accuracy and mostly left the schema generation to a third-party library that does a lot of the required steps “automagically”. That came back to bite us this week when we realized that the stored data in many cases doesn’t match what we expect anymore. For the moment, we “solved” the issue by implementing a few ugly work-arounds. But a proper solution will only be possible once we reset for the next alpha test again.


Julian (Mjeno)

This week hasn’t been quite as crazy as the one before, but it was still very busy. While the days around the release were mostly about getting new players into the game, I’ve spent a lot of time this week helping players out and even processing the first actual support requests. With over 400 players already in the game and around 50 connected at all time, it’s gotten quite busy!

Part of the community engagement was a Twitch stream in which we gathered feedback on the current build before rolling out the first balancing tweaks. It was really fun to talk to the community in real-time, and we were quite satisfied with the turnout (20-30 viewers at all times). I have yet to write down all the feedback we received in a structured manner and pass it along to our game designer Alex. Some people sent us spreadsheets they made, which provide valuable insights as well. If you have one you’d like to share with us, go right ahead!

We also got our very first Let’s Plays this week! MassivelyOverpowered’s MJ streamed the game right after us, and PeterTaylorTX is creating a whole series. Have a look, especially if you’ve never seen gameplay outside of the tutorials:





Last but not least, I’ve started an ongoing giveaway of supporter packs on Twitter! You can still join until December 24th, 11:59 PM CEST.


As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy holidays!
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« Reply #48 on: December 31, 2018, 03:47:03 PM »

Development log #163

Now that the dust from the First Access launch has settled, the team has taken a week off to meet friends and family over the holidays.


Julian (Mjeno)

Hi, everybody,

It’s just me this week, letting you know that we’re closed until next year. However, that’s not an excuse to break our ongoing 163 weeks long devlog streak!

It’s not like we’ve done nothing at all: The Twitter giveaway of supporter packs has concluded (congratulations again to the winners), the Weekly eXchange gave us a shoutout (thanks again to eXplorminate), and I evaluated most of the feedback from our Twitch stream to hand it to Alex in a neat little list (thanks again to you guys). Average concurrent players have expectedly dropped somewhat over the holidays, but I’m certain that the numbers will go back up in a few days when people return to their daily routine and I go back to yelling about the game on the Internet. (:

Until then, I wish you guys a lovely New Year’s Eve and a good start into 2019!

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy New Year!
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« Reply #49 on: January 06, 2019, 06:08:02 AM »

Development log #164

Like every year, 2019 started with a slow burn as the team wrapped up the holiday season. You may say that so far it’s been a… light year.


Martin

For the better part of the first week of 2019 I was more or less on vacation, spending quality time with friends playing Terraforming Mars, a rather complex board game about the near-future colonization of Mars. I highly recommend it if you don’t shy away from sitting around a table for up to 6 hours at a time (as it happened to us in one of our play-throughs).

But back to digital gaming: I eased back into work by doing some adjustments to our internal reporting infrastructure. In what feels like the blink of an eye, a new year has started and with it come a few new accounting requirements. So why not get the boring stuff out of the way in the first lines of code written in 2019?


Julian (Mjeno)

I spent a good chunk of this week updating lists and information to 2019, e.g. by compiling the dates of this year’s industry events. More interestingly, however, I finished going through all the feedback and suggestions we’ve received so far (including for some older test runs). We structured, categorized and prioritized all entries, so we can hit Michi and Martin with it in tomorrow’s kick-off meeting. It’s going to be fun!

PS: I would like to take this opportunity to suggest Twilight Imperium as another excellent option for your 4x sci-fi board game pleasure.

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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Mjeno
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« Reply #50 on: January 13, 2019, 03:05:33 PM »

Development log #165

With Michi back from parental leave, some new fixes are about to hit the live version and the account management system. The week has also been full of planning and plotting, as the team is slowly designing the first big balancing and feature update.


Martin

Even though we launched into First Access last month, there aren’t many of the perks available yet. I set out to change this this week by implementing one more: Friend keys!

At the moment, anyone interested in the game has to at least buy the Asteroid tier since we’re still only one step above a closed alpha test. But all tiers include the ability to generate First Access keys for friends so they can join for free. And that’s exactly what I added to our account management page (“The Hub”) this week. It’s not deployed yet (because deploying stuff on a week-end is typically a bad idea), but once it is, you will be able to find it here.

Besides this, the first full week of the year was dominated by lots of meetings, calls and organizational stuff.


Michi (molp)

Hey everyone, I am back from my parental leave! To warm up I fixed a lot of smaller issues that have been piling up over the holidays. They will be deployed with our next update (not sure when yet, though). Here are a few examples:

Fixed the naming of quite a few materials. Unfortunately the technical names have been exported during world creation. For example Pioneer Clothing has now become Basic Overall and Sealant is now called Poly-Sulfite Sealant.
A successful company liquidation will now remove any sites owned by the liquidated company. This is quite important for the starting worlds, since the liquidated companies would block too many otherwise available site plots.
Cargo can now be exchanged between ships that are at the same space station
Besides these issues I worked on two more things, but I haven’t gotten very far yet. We want to change how players get into the game, i.e. the company registration and company setup at the very beginning. We want it to make easier for new players to choose a starting profile and planet by showing more information about the game at these steps. More on that in the future!

The last thing is an internal one: We are already collecting several game-relevant statistics, but to make better game design choices in the future we need a more versatile system. I am currently looking into that topic.


Julian (Mjeno)

I spent most of my time this week following up on our First Access press release in early December. Many sites and people didn’t react to it or write about it, and I figured I’d leave them alone during the holiday season and wait another week until everybody’s settled into the new year. Our freelance game designer Alex also helped me out; having made an indie MMO himself, he still knew some journalist he introduced me to. Some of my efforts have already been fruitful, as it seems like more big sites are going to cover Prosperous Universe in the near future.

Something I learned this week: If people don’t respond to your e-mails (even three or four of them), try tweeting at them. Tag individual journalists rather than (or alongside) the website they write for. It might turn out that your e-mails slipped through the cracks because they were sent to a generic address, and that the journalists themselves will jump on your game once they are made aware of it on Twitter. Happened to us this week!

Another marketing measure I took this week was publishing an article on Gamasutra, which was an updated version of our recent post on 80.lv. It was picked to be featured on the front page, which is pretty exciting. Last but not least, we discussed which game design additions and balancing changes are the most important for the next version. Nothing is set in stone yet, but you’re going to learn more about that in due time. (:

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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« Reply #51 on: January 18, 2019, 08:47:33 AM »

I'm really vibing with this — I am wondering re your recent launch though: why kind of release what seems like A LOT to start vs. kind of scaffolding people with basics and iterating from there? Not saying one way is right or wrong, just wondering about the choice.
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CANTATA
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« Reply #52 on: January 20, 2019, 12:34:24 PM »

Hey, glad to hear you're interested in the game! I don't think I understand your question. I don't check this thread very often outside of posting our devlogs, would you maybe like to join us on Discord and hit me up over there? Smiley
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« Reply #53 on: January 20, 2019, 12:39:18 PM »

Development log #166

This week, Michi has added some great improvements to the company set-up process and Julian has worked out the new community guidelines. Martin meanwhile has temporarily turned his attention entirely to AirlineSim.


Michi (molp)

My main focus this week was on the new company creation flow we designed together with our game designer. We had many complaints from players that they were unsure what starting package and location to choose in the beginning. This resulted in many COLIQs (company liquidations, yes the players use the command as a verb now) and unhappy players. To make the company creation process more transparent and user-friendly we decided to split it into three parts and allow to go back to a previous step. Here is the first step “Starting package”.


Besides a general description what a player normally would do when choosing the starting package we added lists with all the commodities the player starts with alongside the initial cash and experts. Clicking on a material will open its material description buffer for even more insights.

“Current demand” is a new piece of information. We want to give the players hints about how high the demand for this starting package is. Many players suggested features that would them allow to tell new players what package to choose so that currently rare products would be produced more often.


Julian (Mjeno)

I’ll keep it short this week, as I’ve mostly been taking care of busywork like sending the third (fourth, fifth) message out to certain members of the press, taking care of support requests, and expanding and tidying up our (internal) feature backlog. The one interesting thing that has come out of this week is our community guidlines! As our playerbase grows and, sadly, the first cases of abusing certain game mechanics and loopholes have occured, we thought it might be time to work out some official rules. I posted them in the forum, and if you’re a player already, go check them out. (:

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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« Reply #54 on: January 27, 2019, 03:36:21 PM »

Development log #167

An improved company set-up process and restrictions to company liquidations have been among the most requested updates to the game. Guess what we’ve been working on this week!


Michi (molp)

Last week I showed you the first screen of the new company creation flow:


This week I worked on the second one:


Here you can select your starting location. Besides the usual information about the planet, like available plots, fertility and resources, we also included the planet map. Although not showing in the screenshot, the map will show all the details that are visible in the game as well: plots, infrastructure, ships in orbit and so on.

Selecting the starting location will also determine to which faction you belong. We show some basic information about the faction in the lower left area.

The controls on the lower right side are still work in progress. Here we want to present some market information to help finding the right start location. The players will be able to cycle through the nearest commodity exchanges and it will show current prices, demand and supply of a handful relevant commodities. The commodities shown depend on the starting package selection earlier.

Last but not least I implemented the first COLIQ restrictions. Company liquidations now have a cooldown, so they cannot be abused indefinitely. The first liquidation will be possible right after the start (in case someone made an error in the company setup), the second after 3 days, the third after 21 days and every subsequent one after 60 days. That way an honest player has the chance to start over basically whenever she wants, but abusing the feature is harder.

We know that this won’t solve the problem once and for all, but it is a step in the right direction. If players report suspicious activity we will look into it and close accounts if necessary.

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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« Reply #55 on: February 03, 2019, 04:34:54 PM »

Development log #168

With the crew reunited, everybody is chipping away at their own list of things to do before the first game world reset since First Access started.


Michi (molp)

I continued to work on the new company creation screens this week. I focused on the market information displayed in the lower right corner:


We want to give the players some insight into the current market situation and opted for a list of relevant materials (depending on the chosen starting profile). The players can click through a list of commodity exchanges and see the distance to their selected starting location. For each relevant commodity we show the current price indicator and a bar with demand and supply.

We showed the concept to some players and the opinions about it are divided: While one half thinks this is enough information to get new players started (and not too confused in the process) the other players think it isn’t enough information at all and we should incorporate more charts. I personally think that we should give it a try as it is and adjust when needed.


Martin

After months of dedicating the majority of my working hours to Prosperous Universe, it was about time I showed our existing title AirlineSim some love. Hence my absence from this devlog for the past two weeks!

While not diving back into PrUn work right away, I did work one several backend tools used across all our projects, primarily backend tools that will support our team in diagnosing and helping with undelivered emails and similar email-related issues. I also looked into our revenue and user activity statistics and thought about ways to extract and analyze them going forward.

Not the most exciting stuff, but I feel like that’s at least 50% of my job around simulogics these days…running the infrastructure - like email handling, payment systems, accounting, taxes, you name it - so we can operate our games, actually charge money for them and do so in a way that we don’t get in trouble with the authorities ;-)


Julian (Mjeno)

I’m also back! I’ve had a crazy start of the year with so much non-work stuff going on that I had to virtually skip the past two weeks as well to get things sorted out. However, I’m back for good and happy to see that the community in and around the game is still as active and awesome as I left it.

There are some things I did get around to, such as scheduling a new live stream just before the upcoming game world reset. It’s going to be on February 19th at 7 PM CET and there’s going to be an official announcement very soon. I’ve also been getting involved some more in game design again, as I read through the community’s feedback on all our channels, passed it along and discussed it with the team. A lot of it will probably be discussed on the live stream as well.

I’ve also started writing descriptions for all materials in the game. It’s not an urgent issue by any means, but I personally feel like the game is lacking in flavor somewhat, and for people (such as myself) who are at least as interested in the setting and story as they are in the economy side of things, some world-building snippets here and there will go a long way in making the game feel more alive. I have to admit I somewhat underestimated the task since many of the materials are fairly specific products I know very little about, so there more research involved in this task than I anticipated.

Last but not least, there is going to be a pretty massive marketing thingy in about a month (right after the reset) which should bring about swathes of new players, so plan your cartels now! Wink

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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« Reply #56 on: February 10, 2019, 01:41:12 PM »

Development log #169

While Martin has been researching and implementing measures for player retention, Julian has been getting ready to draw some new attention to the game when its first reset goes down.


Martin

The other day I was reading an article by MMO design legend Raph Koster about what drives retention in games. While the article is mostly a nice summary of stuff I think I already knew, there was one key line that stuck with me:

a service-based game is not a dirty word, doesn’t mandate constant moneygrubbing, doesn’t mean it has to be free to play. It just means that you the developer and you the player are in it for the long haul.

It mostly resonated with me because (as I mentioned in last week’s devlog) I spend quite a bit of time recently on our other game AirlineSim which - just as Prosperous Universe - is an online business simulation game. Contrary to PrUn though, it has been around for 17 years (!) now. And yet, at least every now and then, we have to and want to give it some love because we have players who’ve been playing this game for often more than a decade and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Unless we decided we don’t care anymore. Which we won’t. Because as Koster put it: We’re in it for the long haul!

Anyway, so much for my unusual devlog this week. I have been and will be dealing with the general theme of retention on and off again for the past and coming weeks. And I also spent some time this week finally fixing the pesky serialization bug that keeps some of our testers from receiving all the balancing changes Alex has been working on. It will most definitely be fixed after the next reset!


Julian (Mjeno)

This week, I did some planning and preparation on how to advertise our upcoming game world reset to get some new players on board. The measures will include the usual stuff such as another external giveaway and one on Twitter, live streaming, Reddit posts, another newsletter etc. One special thing I did this week, however, is reaching out to some (very) select influencers for possible collaborations, appearances, and sponsorship opportunities. While nothing is really concrete yet, I did get a promising response or two out of it.

Additionally, I signifcantly upgraded the setup for our next Twitch stream on February 19th. Our high-tier supporters have already seen a preview, and I hope that the rest of you will be pleasantly surprised!

Last but not least, I finished the new wiki page on efficiency factors! It answers many questions that frequently came up in the past regarding building efficiency, consumption of resources, and experts. From here on out, all updates to the APEX Handbook will be announced in this forum thread, where you can also learn how to contribute yourself.

I hope you find the new page useful. See you next week!

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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« Reply #57 on: February 17, 2019, 01:17:25 PM »

Development log #170

It’s Martin speaking. Spring hit Germany this week-end! Out of the blue (or rather, the grey), we have clear skies, sunny weather and crowds of people flooding parks and promenades. Those crowds include Mjeno, which is why I have the honor of writing the intro to this week’s devlog!


Martin

I spent an above-average amount of time talking to Michi this week. We were (and still are) brainstorming about how we want to proceed in terms of feature development after the upcoming reset. While a pretty solid roadmap exists, we felt like it didn’t do the actual circumstances after the First Access release justice anymore. The usual theory-gets-hit-by-reality problem. We haven’t arrived at any final decision yet, though. So I’m looking forward to more creative chats over the next few days :-D

In the technical department I looked into several bugs that were uncovered by an unscheduled cluster reset last week. While the First Access phase primarily serves to validate new features and balancing, the technical systems are just as much under test. So with the next patch those particular issues will hopefully be a thing of the past.


Michi (molp)

I continued on the the statistics / analytics feature I mentioned a while ago. For the coming tests we want to have more insights into what is going on in the game world on a large scale. Of course playing the game and listening to the complaints and remarks of the community helps a lot (we’ve had some great feedback so far) but eventually that alone is not enough.

At the beginning of the current test I implemented a system that would allow us to see the balance of the three market makers. It’s just a simple statistic but it helped to see where the money ends up. I generalized the approach and created a system that makes it easier to add statistics in the future. As a proof of concept I added a dimension to the market maker statistic so that we now can see the balance of each market maker per commodity.

Right now I am working on a statistic that shows company creations and deletions and what profile, starting planet and faction the players choose.

This is not the end of the line though: We want to have analytics that go well beyond that and can tell us how players are doing in the game and what might be the reasons players stop playing. But that lays still in the future.

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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« Reply #58 on: February 24, 2019, 07:44:03 AM »

Development log #171

The main event of this week has clearly been the live stream on Tuesday. A whole lot of changes and updates were announced, which will take effect after the game world reset in March.


Michi (molp)

This week I took a break from the technical stuff and deep dived into the material tree changes Alex made. I reviewed his changes and tweaked some values here and there. In our last Twitch stream, we talked about these changes as well and Julian wrote down most of them in the forum.

I want to quickly introduce one change in the devlog though: I just added a new starter package, the fuel engineer. As the name suggests, players choosing this package will be able to build a fuel refinery as well as a collector or extractor right from the start. They get two experts in the field and some resources to immediately start producing fuel.

Fuel has always been a scarce commodity in the last tests and we finally want to change that. We really like how Promitor and Montem turned out to be hubs for agriculture and construction prefabs. So we decided to introduce a Castillo-Ito start planet that has some (not all) resources necessary for the STL fuel production and hope this will lead to the formation of another big trading hub.

I also adjusted the other starting profiles’ initial materials and cash to adjust them to the changed building costs and approximate their respective total value.


Julian (Mjeno)

As Michi already mentioned, we did a livestream on Tuesday which you can now watch if you missed it. In it, we announced a bunch of changes that will take effect after the upcoming game world reset, including some things that weren’t on our official roadmap before. If you want to know more, check out the write-up Michi linked above!

Apart from the livestream, I’ve been busy communicating with a network of influencers we might do a sponsorship for in the future. What makes it especially exciting is that we’ve been fans of some of those creators and have been watching them for a long time. I can’t tell you more right now, but something great might come of it.

Since I’m still some work hours short this week, I’m going to spend the rest of my Sunday writing new tutorials for the new and improved company set-up process. See you next week!

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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« Reply #59 on: March 03, 2019, 08:49:59 AM »

Development log #172

With the first Big Crunch just around the corner, the crew is working hard on putting the final pieces of the next world together.


Michi (molp)

I started the week by implementing a long requested enhancement of the material info tile: The list of production and wrought product recipes now finally shows the necessary production time. The shown times are the recipe’s base value and independent of any efficiency factors of the current player:


I also updated the drop down selection of recipes when creating a production order. Before there was only shown the name of end product without any other information. If players wanted to set up a production order in a production line with multiple recipes for the same product (like a food processor for example) they had to click through all of them to see which was the one they wanted. I replaced the generic drop down box with this customized one:


The necessary production times are shown as well, but this time they reflect the companies efficiency factors.

Besides these improvements, I made last minute changes to the in-game materials, added a lot of material descriptions that Julian wrote and created a new map for the upcoming test. This is what it looks like:



Martin

The end of Alpha 6 is imminent, which means the launch of Alpha 7 is as well. While Michi was busy preparing the game itself for this event, it once again meant work on the backend for me.

Since the start of First Access in December, several thousand people have signed up for the game. And obviously, we want to let them know that a new Alpha will soon be ready for them to test. But up until now, we only had very crude tools in place to send bulk emails to our users and those tools were also very much specific to our other game AirlineSim, so using it to send emails to players of Prosperous Universe wasn’t possible.

To change this, I spent the better part of this week building a proper UI to make it a lot easier and safer to send simple bulk emails to our users. Some time next week, this new system will see its first real-world application when we announce the next alpha. The system only sends emails to confirmed accounts, but if you don’t actually want to receive our emails (or if you want to make sure you do!) you can adjust the settings for your account here.


Julian (Mjeno)

This has been a fun and somewhat unusual week for me. While I did take care of some classic PR tasks - such as exchanging e-mails with influencers to explore new advertising opportunities, and writing the press release for the upcoming reset -, I spent most of my time writing in-game descriptions and exploring the new game world. Michi has set up a local server for the team to poke around in, and besides hunting for potential bugs, I mostly checked out the new content in order to update the APEX Handbook accordingly. Overall, I really like the changes and additions, and I feel like the new balancing and resource distribution is going in a great direction.

As Michi mentioned above, one addition that has no impact on game mechanics, but improves the overall feeling, is the new description texts for many commodities in the game. I spent more time writing them than is probably reasonable, but since we are going for (at least) hard-ish sci-fi, I didn’t want to wing it and make up a bunch of nonsense. Instead, I did a bit of research in the fields of chemistry, food production, space travel, and construction, to at least get the basic facts right. If you happen to be an expert in any of those fields and you have any suggestions for improved descriptions, feel free to hit me up.

You are probably wondering when you will be able to get into the new game world. Well, I have some good news for you: The update most likely go live this Friday, March 8th!

As always: we’d love to hear what you think: join us on the forums!

Happy trading!
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