HAPPY WEDNESDAY, LEVELHEADS!
It's been six weeks since the launch of Levelhead into Early Access, and we've deployed a patch every Wednesday since launch. This rapid feedback cycle has allowed us to be extremely responsive to unforeseen problems in the game's design, fix bugs, and pump out little improvements here and there.
But now that we're past that initial batch of updates and the game has become more stable, we thought it best to take a step back and evaluate how we're doing. After doing some math on whiteboards and deliberating while gesturing wildly, we've learned that the weekly patch cycle is actually doing some harm to our development process, and that we need to change things up. So although this is about the time we'd be dropping patch 0.7 right onto your faces, like a mama bird feeding her weird, bulging-eyed babies, we're going to hold off on that. Instead, we're going to shift from a one-week dev cycle for patches, to a two-week dev cycle, which means patch 0.7 will come next week instead of today, and it will be much, much larger.
But don't worry! Although this means patches will be more spread out, this will enable us to do much bigger things with each patch. So as a player, this means you'll get more content over time than you previously would, in the long run. Curious about the HOW and the WHY? Read on!
2 Week vs. 1 Week Cycle
Under the one-week model, we frequently had to pause large features and then come back to them later, so we could guarantee we had some batch of content to release. But that meant rushing things out the door at the last minute, which is not a great idea.
Plus, bouncing back and forth between working on major, unfinished features like this will increase the likelihood of introducing bugs or missing important aspects of the feature, and the compile times and switching times add up, too. So a large feature that might take three days to implement will actually end up taking five, and it'll be less stable and under-tested.
Last, with every Wednesday going into patch deployment, we lose at least a half-day of development every Wednesday, but typically more than that, due to things like final bug fixing, writing and proliferating blog posts about the patch, and monitoring community channels for any major problems.
The two-week model, by contrast will have the following benefits:
- Every other Wednesday, we can just continue developing for the full day, instead of deploying. This means we get nine days of dev time instead of eight, every two weeks. That's a 12% increase in pure dev time, which means more features, more bug fixes, and more improvements to the game overall.
- We can work on large features and get them finished and tested in one go, even if they take five development days, without having to stop work on them to rush something else out the door. These features will be more stable and get finished faster as a result. The kinds of features that take a long time are major UI overhauls, new biomes and tile sets, powerups, web features, and major new mechanics that change gameplay in interesting ways. Under the one-week cycle, we wouldn't be able to do as many of these things.
- We will have time to test new features more thoroughly, leading to more stable patches.
- We have breathing room to experiment and prototype new items, which is important for the long-term feature set of the game. We need time to try bad ideas, so we can find the good ones!
So, all in all, we should be seeing much meatier patches, with a better flow of content and updates in the long run. If you're curious about what we're working on and what's coming in the next patch, you can see the unreleased patch notes over at https://www.bscotch.net/games/levelhead/patchnotes.
Thank You All
It's been a wild ride so far, and the Levelhead community has been incredibly inspiring and understanding as we get our footing and figure this whole Early Access thing out. You have all given us the confidence to strive to make Levelhead into something truly great. Big things are ahead!
We'll see you next Wednesday for patch 0.7!
- Seth, the Game Programmer
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