Test Environments: Moving Closer to 24/7

Test Environments: Moving Closer to 24/7

Hello, Crows!

AP Max Lancaster here with some exciting news. Soon, we will deploy our new testing ecosystem and patcher.

We think this will be a welcome change. Our veteran testers are used to playing in the TEST environment on more volatile, experimental builds. Bringing up the new ecosystem allows us to deliver a more refined experience by adding an extra environment (i.e. “Crowfall Universe”) to our testing infrastructure: the LIVE environment.

The live environment will be:

  • Up 24/7*
  • Widely accessible to backers**
  • Generally more stable and polished than the test environment
  • Wiped less frequently

* Consider this a goal, not a promise. There will be exceptions to this on occasion, but the idea is that we want the Live environment to be available to testers all the time. We’ll naturally have to take it down to update it, maintain it, change it, etc.

**The entitlement restrictions on playing in the Live environment will be less stringent than the requirements to play in the Test environment. Our intention is to keep the Live Environment open for Pre-Alpha 1&2, Alpha 1-3, and Beta 1&2 players (i.e. everyone with a backer package and above).

The live environment and the test environment will have separate downloads, installations, patchers and will be completely independent of one another. If you want to play on both environments, you’ll need to install both. Skills, items, characters and EKs will be totally separate based on whether you are playing on a test server or a live server.

To help understand why this change is a big deal, it might help to explain the life cycle of our builds right now and how it’s going to change with this new update.

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE (of a Build)

Game development is tricky.

That’s not just me making excuses… it’s true. The team has to make forward progress on many different fronts, all at once, and then smash everything back together again. When you do that, some things break. They always break.

That means we can’t just run a build, hand it to players and hope for the best. Instead, we have to test the game internally first. We do this in our internal dev (developer) environment/universe. Several times a week we hop in and test the state of the build. We do our best to sniff out any major bugs and squash them quickly (before the weekend playtests). You’ll notice that as we add features and content, there is a LOT more stuff to test, which is a challenge… especially for a relatively small (for an MMO, anyway) team.

Our process up until now has been to move stuff directly from our internal “sniff test” right out to you guys. That works OK when only hundreds of testers are logging in, but once you have thousands, it’s less than ideal.

Thus, the need for a test environment. The new process is slightly different. Once we have a build we think looks pretty good, we’ll put it out to the test environment. This is technically where the players have been living since we started testing. You guys will find a ton of bugs (as you inevitably do) and report them on the forums (because you rock) and then we receive them and make changes to the build, running it through our internal testing and then re-propping to test, over and over until we hit a build a looks pretty stable.

THEN, thanks to our new ecosystem, we can move that pretty stable, cleaned-up build from the test environment to the live environment, exposing it to a much larger group of players. The live environment will eventually become the live game. We will only wipe it when absolutely necessary and it will be up all the time (outside of normal maintenance).

This deployment is one of many necessary transitions that will get us to launch. We’ll put out more information on which backers are eligible to access the test servers, as well as how they can download the new patcher, sometime next week (if all goes according to plan). In general, we’ll do the same process on the test server that we have used historically (invite Pre-Alpha 1, then 2, then Alpha 1… etc.), and we’ll try to leave the live service open to a much larger group.

We’re planning to take a snapshot of skill training right before we do this and mirror it on both environments. THAT SAID, I want to remind everyone that we may wipe skill training on one or both environments when testing needs require that we do so. We’ve been trying to avoid it, because we know you won’t like it, but we can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. (And following the philosophy outlined above, you should expect it to happen more frequently on the test environment than the live environment.)

When the new executable(s) are ready for the live and test environments, we will send active test group members an email with instructions to install both.

Stay tuned for more info!

Max Lancaster
Associate Producer, ArtCraft Entertainment

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