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  • Tommy2Doors

Dev Diaries #17 - This is Game-Dev.

August 13th 2022 12:39am — Fred Toms, Symbiosis Games Inc - President, Co-Founder, Programmer, Etc. - @Tommy2Doors

Setting the Scene:

I settled into my home office early on a Monday morning, eager to implement some changes to the code base I had researched over the weekend. Some of the changes were designed to improve our netcode efficiency - a facet of SPECTRE that certainly needs a little more T.L.C. than other parts of our game.

Within two hours of implementing some new code, SPECTRE had imploded. I could start the game, choose my load out, but then that was nearly it.

The character would only rotate left and right. Firing the Reaper's rifle would cause his hands to inexplicably disappear. I couldn't walk. I couldn't aim. The entire game was broken - completely - and I didn't know why or how to fix it. I googled, desperately, for a solution - I rabidly scoured the results and couldn't find any situation even remotely similar to what I was experiencing.

I was on my own with this one.

I glanced up at the whiteboard I recently installed on my office wall - a fixture with its only apparent purpose to stoke the smouldering coals of my burgeoning anxiety.

And today?

That damn whiteboard was performing like a champ:

"Until PAX West (Toronto flight) 22 days" - I had scribbled down in black dry erase marker.

Oh no.

Luckily, we have version control! Keeping my cool (mostly), I let Jordan know that I'd have to roll back the last couple of hours my work because an atomic bomb had gone off, somewhere, in my code and the game was now a puddle that I couldn't remedy.

We rolled back, and BANG - our game was still completely broken except now the code wouldn't even compile. But how could that be? We rolled back to when the game still worked! What was the point in having version control if our roll backs didn't save us from certain doom? I felt my heart start to drum like it never has before. I felt like I needed to go outside for a long, intense walk and also simultaneously bury my head in an ice bath. I had drank way too much coffee in an attempt at sobering my brain up enough to fix my mistake and now, coupled with the stress of a blown up game only three weeks away from the most important trip of my life, I could feel control of my mind and body nearly slipping away.

This is game development.

Within several hours, of course, I had restored the game to its previous state and within as much time, I had made the upgrades to our code that I had originally intended - this time without the entire detonation of any digital nuclear bombs.

As I write this, my whiteboard now says "17 days".

Some major features are still very buggy and unreliable. One major feature is completely absent and likely, disappointingly, won't be available for PAX - I know of several very serious bugs, and players will certainly introduce us to numerous others previously unseen. We've had a couple unexplained hard crashes, and we've been beating our heads against what feels like a brick wall for upwards of 17 hours each day, trying to get SPECTRE up to snuff for PAX and Steam Next Fest. Even then, I still think, "Damn, we may just pull this off. And after PAX? A brief three weeks later we'll be deploying SPECTRE digitally via the Steam Next Fest. And damn if that netcode isn't vastly superior at that point."

Now, for the news you've been waiting for:

Despite all the above negatives, SPECTRE is taking fantastic shape. We just completely gutted and redesigned our "Delivery Objective System" - lame vernacular for an objective not dissimilar to the 'disk drop-off' objective I remember playing in Chaos Theory SVM. The audio/visual department on this new objective is seriously bad-ass, and it's become my favourite new feature that we won't talk about until it's 'out' there organically. It's similar mechanically, admittedly, but a huge departure thematically. The best part is that it's completely lore compliant - an aspect that matters more and more as we continue.

Jordan's progress on the PAX map has been outstanding. This map is brand new to SPECTRE and was designed solely with PAX in mind. It'll be featured in the Steam Next Fest as well; I think you'll all be very pleased with it. Think PT.

Other recent huge highlights include Tycho from Penny Arcade tweeting about SPECTRE:

"You're trying to bring back classic Spies Vs. Mercs gameplay, and you're gonna be at #PAXWest? I'll be there with bells on" Tycho from Penny Arcade

Well no shit! Can't wait to meet you Tycho!

Another exciting update is that we'll be joining the hosts of the Loud Thumbs podcast in mid-September

Recording on the 14th, show to be released on the 19th - so do us a favour and follow the podcast now so that you don't miss the opportunity to hear our beautiful voices geek out with the Loud Crowd for an hour or so!

Beyond that? We're going to keep grinding, grinding, and grinding. SPECTRE is coming.

Thanks for sticking in!

- Fred

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