Mechanics testing: Mechanical testing is running the in-game systems, arrays and databases through their paces to ensure that a rich simulation is available, as well as enough content to keep the experience compelling and fun. Think of the permutations necessary to ensure that enough potential variables are present to make a system seem real, and tracking the sheer numbers of equipment, resources, resource types and dependencies. We have a great crew of game testers, who wait patiently (and not so patiently) for the weekly server bump and drop in and tear through things. Mechanical testing means that art sits on the back burner until enough bugs (yes there are bugs on Mars, but they only bite when the server is running) are eradicated. This also means that testers get to work with programmer artwork, which in this case is actually pretty good.
What this means to HyperKat: Literally hundreds of hours of debug, using both user feedback and server debug logs, to pinpoint the culprit in a couple of millions of lines of code. Some bugs are engine code, some are server/client issues, some are whole systems and arrays that have to be rebuilt from scratch… and all have cascading ramifications in other areas of the code. At the end of this process, the entire game will effectively be rewritten dozens of times, and without good in-line code documentation HyperKat would be lost.
What this means to our crack testing teams: It MIGHT begin to feel like little progress. We are thrilled with the feedback, but are still focused on mechanical systems. That means such things as accurate horizon and solar rendering or drill and sample animations are not put into the game. It may also mean that some feedback is set aside in a queue until it can be addressed. It may also seem that every week you see the same programmer art and find new little annoying bugs. However, without you – this game cannot exist!
Our testers, as most of you know, are an international crew located in all corners of the world, spending their valuable time exploring the Mars environment. Some stay up very late or get up very early to participate… and we love and appreciate their passions.
Bottom line, Mars seems to be caught in a gravity well and progress is slowing. However, the opposite is true. We are approaching mechanical feature completion (unless Marco pops a fuse on the reactor system or Profit parks the rover in the cohab airlock 🙂 ) and with luck can start to address the ingame art. We have a massive list of potential new features that will be evaluated and targeted, thanks to the extensive brainstorming and research of the testers. Our helmets are off to you gentlemen! See you on Hyperia Base!