Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Means of Production

We spoke with our Lead Producer, Scottomon, about how he contributed to the development of APB Reloaded. Once we got his attention for long enough, that is - he was busy working on getting 1.12.0 running smoothly and we were the sacrifice he was willing to make. We did eventually steal him away during a free moment to get some answers though...

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do at Reloaded Productions.
I'm Scott, the Lead Producer at Reloaded Productions. I manage the Production team and oversee all development at the studio, which includes art, programming, design, hosting, and QA. In the first instance, I work with the Executive and Development teams to set our high-level goals and deadlines. After those are in place, I manage the Producers and the Development team throughout the process of meeting those goals.

I mainly work on long-term strategy and planning, but the role is quite broad - the simplest description I can think of is that I make sure the team has all they need to do their job and that I work to remove any obstacles in their way, even if that obstacle is a really persistent community manager. (surely some mistake - Jotunblut)

How did you get started as a producer?
I studied software engineering (specifically game development) at university and got a taste for producing during a group project in my third year. After graduating, I joined my first games company as a tester on their in-house tools team and after a year saw that the company was advertising for Assistant Producers. I plucked up the courage to ask and before I knew it, I was the first Assistant Producer on the company's flagship title. Fast forward another year and I was both Associate Producer and Release Manager, responsible for coordinating the entire team to ship the game. I've been in Production ever since.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis? What are the sorts of decision that you make?
Day-to-day I look at our progress towards milestones across all our different projects and make adjustments to any plans (if necessary). This includes things like looking into reported issues and deciding how important those issues are against other issues and even other features. My main daily role is making sure that any issues blocking development or causing us pain get removed so that development can keep going.

What's the decision making process behind what features stay in a release and which ones get held back?
This is a tough one, and there's no hard and fast rule for deciding. Dropping features from a release is always a last resort and can happen for a variety of reasons. Our Executive Team may have news that changes our priorities, we may find issues in the game that make that feature difficult to implement, or we may even drop a feature because the developer working on that feature is unavailable for whatever reason. Before a feature gets dropped or pushed, we explore every possibility that would allow us to keep the feature, including sacrificing a less important feature, extending the deadline, or even pulling in a developer that was working on a future release.

The goal with every release is to ship the most important features within a reasonable time period and to the highest level of quality possible. Using that description is the best way to decide when it's time to hold back a feature for a later release, to extend the deadline, or even push the team harder.

What's the decision making process behind picking what item to release on Armas?
We decide this between what the community is telling us they want along with our own analytics. We saw that a lot of people wanted new, preset weapons so we started to make more preset weapons. We've seen people want new, more fashionable clothing items, so that's going to be a big part of the clothing artists' push over the next six months. We're pretty well sorted for armor at the moment. The goal is always to balance what we have on the store - we might highlight weapons that are underused by players at the moment so people will be more tempted to give those weapons a go, like we did with the NFA-9 and RSA.

What feature are you most proud of seeing in the last 12 months, and which one are you most looking forward to seeing in the next 12 months?
I’m more proud of our combined progress in the last twelve months rather than any single feature. We’ve added a lot of new features and have definitely improved the game immensely while also paving the way for even more new features. We've got lots more to look forward to over the next twelve months, but the one that excites me the most is our brand new [REDACTED] game mode. It’s a whole new way to play APB and definitely highlights APB’s strengths. We’ll release the details painfully slowly over the next few months.

How has development on Reloaded changed in the last twelve months?
In the last twelve months we’ve actually been able to focus a lot more on long-term work that should start making appearances over the next couple of months. We’re keeping quiet on these things just now, but players have already seen snippets, such as the Overkill servers and the early-version Chaos Ruleset. That's just a couple of the things we’ve been working on.

Can Jotunblut have a pay rise?
We've kind of blown the employment budget on Server Hamsters.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Scale of Scaleform

We've got a little surprise in store for you all with the 1.12.0 release of APB Reloaded. One that we've been keeping very quiet on. Patch 1.12.0 will bring with it the first implementation of our new Scaleform User Interface.

We've spent a long time working on this, getting all the systems and mechanics in place. One of the biggest challenges has been creating it in the background of the game without disrupting the existing User Interface. The first release of this major improvement contains entirely re-made 3D versions of the Login, Character Select screens, and more. While our newly revamped front end doesn't include updates for the HUD or Editors yet, we hope to have more news on that in the coming months.

It's also bringing a new theme song to APB Reloaded. Sharp-eared listeners might recognize parts of this new track from Asylum back in Halloween 2012. We hope you enjoy more of the unique work by our very own in-house audio guru, Farfletched.

There's another secret in this update, but that would be telling...