Beta approaches

September 15, 2005

This an old status update on my web-based game Engineering Faith.

One of the biggest bugs in Faith right now is that I am still doing very well in the alpha games. As some of you know, every time I write a game, I end up getting my ass kicked playing it once it’s done. So if I’m winning, something must be terribly wrong.

In order to get a real good idea of how imbalanced the game is, I want to crank up the number of people playing. That means one thing: beta’s coming! Keep in mind this won’t be an open public beta - it’ll be invite-based for the time being, sort of like GMail but with less disk space. At first I’ll invite high-karma site users like I have been, as well as fulfill requests for invites (a “Gimme an Invite” form will go up when Beta starts.) High-karma users will then get their own invites and be able to invite other people into the game too. This helps solve two problems - the possibility of the game growing too fast and breaking, and tracking people who are trying to create multiple accounts or otherwise cheat. I think I’d like to limit the growth rate to 15-20% each week, and invites are the way to do it.

Of course, certain things need to happen before I start inviting people in to a Beta. I’ve devised a list of Beta Blockers. Not beta-adrenergic blocking agents, the drugs used to treat heart problems… though they are things designed to avoid giving new players heart attacks, so they’re somewhat similar. Beta Blockers include things like a respect system, the ability to form teams of more than two people, change/version control, game presignup, improving some of the hardest-to-use interfaces, help improvements, abandoned faith cleanout, and fixing of some major imbalances found during alpha. These things will allow the game to deal with a larger number of players without bursting into flame.

I have a design question for you out there, though. Faith has a team-up function that’s somewhat like Parties were in Asylum, though different in some ways. I was planning on making it so changes are put to a vote - if most of the people in the team approve, it happens. You know, like inviting/allowing somebody new, kicking somebody out, and changing the team rules. This would allow cool hijinks to happen like the founder of the team to be kicked out. Possibly, the better you’re doing, the more your vote counts. Somebody said how they thought this was a bad idea, however, saying that the concept of being able to boss other players around was part of what made Parties in Asylum fun and worthwhile. What do you think?

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.