25 October 2011

Our Newest Ring Member

One of the features in the latest update (version 2.0.4) is a new advisor. Like many in the game, the art is based on a real person. In this case, it’s one of our beta testers, Liana Kerr.

We’ve been blessed by a number of helpful and perceptive testers, willing to spoil their potential fun by playing a buggy copy of the game. Since they’re all volunteers, I added to the pool of beta testers as the game got closer to release. Even a game as repayable as King of Dragon Pass will eventually become jaded, and I wanted fresh eyes. (I did however take a number of testers who had played the game before, figuring that a gap of 10 years would make a difference. And these players could tell me if it was still true to the spirit of the original.)

Unfortunately, something went wrong with our bug tracking system, and I can’t get exact counts of how many bugs each beta tester sent. But even without exact statistics, I know it’s Liana. Although she was an old hand, she dove in, and played seemingly endless games, trying out different approaches, and sending all sorts of reports.

Her enthusiasm was remarkable for someone who had already played the game a lot. Here in her own words is her introduction to the game:
“Back in 2001, when my boyfriend and I were at college, he gave me King of Dragon Pass for Valentine’s Day. (Reader, I married him.) I would have enjoyed it well enough if it had just been a clan simulation based around cattle management, exploration and battles, but the sheer amount of random events and notifications, the focus on mythology, the gorgeous artwork and exceptional writing kept me playing it for years, until I thought I had quite played it to death. Even then, every so often I’d still have the urge to build up a happy little Peace clan swimming in cattle and trade goods!”
Once the game was released, I began working on VoiceOver support, so that blind players could enjoy the game too. There were a few bug fixes in that build too, so I sent it to my stable of testers (plus some blind players). You can imagine my surprise when Liana decided to try the game using VoiceOver! Not only that, but she continued sending insightful feedback that helped make the game more accessible.

This was so over the top that I wanted to do something special to say thank you. I asked our iOS artist, Jani Lintunen, if he could create one more set of advisor faces, and he graciously agreed. Since this was to be a surprise, Jani had little to work with. (By contrast, when Stefano Gaudiano did associate producer Elise Bowditch and myself, we gave him photos of our parents.) But he nailed it. Liana says, “The picture of her when she’s old looks very much like my mom, but older (and my husband thinks it looks like my mom’s sister). It’s really eerie!”

Many testers helped make this game more fun and less buggy. I was lucky to get their help. And lucky Liana was willing to play yet again. Thanks again, Liana, and maybe some day I can arrange a visit from Cragspider…


  1. >Thanks again, Liana, and maybe some day I can arrange a visit from Cragspider…

    And the dwarfs, and the angry Uroxi! I won't be happy until I've had them all over to destroy my tula.

    I'm really touched, both by the picture and this blog post. I enjoy doing this sort of thing, but the very nature of the work means that it doesn't tend to get much recognition! Actually, when I first started, I wondered if you'd regret letting me betatest. Remember the discussion about the prediction that the wheat crop wouldn't come up? I sent off my reply and thought "Well, that probably wins me the 'Weirdest Betatester' award..."

    The funny thing is that the picture was bugged, at first: the advisor worked but the image was blank until she aged into the second picture, and the god icon floated over to odd places, so it could look like I had an advisor who worshipped both Uralda and Humakt. If not for this bug I might not have made the connection, because it would have felt a little conceited to see the new face and assume she was supposed to be me, but this particular bug was fixed almost immediately, as if it was just so I could look at it...

    Thank you, again! I've really enjoyed this, and I love that I'm actually part of the game now.

  2. Hey guys,

    Great to see you adding content, and basing it on people who have helped you. I had no idea about this until I read this blog.

    I just wanted to say great work on this -- I was initially skeptical about the game because of the price tag and my lack of familiarity with the game itself, but I took the plunge after reading so many glowing reviews on TouchArcade, and now I've lost countless hours of sleep.

    Kudos to you! Now back to my clan...

  3. Thanks!

    In fact, many members of the team (original and recent) are in the game.

  4. What, that everything in Dragon Pass can kill you?