01 August 2011


The question on everybody’s mind (including ours!) is, when will the game be out? The obvious answer is: when it’s ready. So when’s that?

Ideally software would never ship with bugs. Or at least with no known bugs. But that’s pretty much impossible. Some bugs maybe very hard to reproduce. Others may have very low impact. Sometimes it’s not every completely clear if certain behavior is a bug or not.

King of Dragon Pass has followed a conventional software development model: implement the features, go through a period of stabilization during which no features are added, test internally and externally.

Some of our testers have thought the game is ready for some time. However, I get to see all the bugs (typically a beta tester will report a handful). They’ve run the gamut, from crashes that could affect everyone, problems on certain devices or iOS versions, bugs in new scenes, the wrong sound effect for a dialog, memory leaks, etc. One category of bug has surprised me a little: the number of bugs and typos in the original scenes. Those have been there since the 1999 release! Some were introduced just before that release, which explains why our QA department didn’t catch them. And, it’s a really big game, with a lot of content, and a lot of randomization. If things don’t happen in just the right order, you may not get the bug.

Anyway, we’ve been getting bug reports and fixing them. This time around we don’t have one or two full time QA people, so the stabilization period is perhaps a bit longer. On the other hand, two thirds of the game has survived the test of time — we may be finding bugs in it, but they didn’t get seriously in people’s way so far. And the new code is working pretty well, without major bugs in a couple weeks. And some of the important code paths have recently been tested (e.g. I just won a long game as Queen of Dragon Pass).

So the plan is to send out two more beta releases. In addition to the testers who’ve helped so far, we’d add another batch of new testers. The second would be a release build (without the useful tools that allow easy reporting and identifying of bugs, but matching what we’d ship). If all goes well, we’d then submit to the App Store.

So what could go wrong? Obviously it would be someone finding a serious bug. Especially if it’s in a release build with no handy debug information. Or play balance is off, and more tuning needed. Either way, the release clock would be reset.

App Store approval is a big wildcard — Apple has occasionally rejected (or worse, not reviewed) apps for what appear to be capricious reasons. However, currently 94% of apps get approved within 7 days. And we’ve certainly tried to play by the rules.

iOS 5 is another wildcard. We’ve been testing with it a prerelease version. A new version might introduce new incompatibilities.

Once the app is approved, we don’t plan on releasing it immediately. As a small development house, we don’t have extensive marketing plans, but we do want a little time to make as big a splash as we can.

So what does that all mean? I think it’s safe to say that we plan on releasing the game in September. If all goes well, as early as the second week. (Likely something will go wrong, but we can slip three weeks and still be September.)

We’ll certainly be letting you know more as the actual date approaches.

And now, to investigate the bug report that came in while I was writing this…

No comments:

Post a Comment