FutureFleets

BETA TESTING
Development Blog - Week One
Posted July 28th, 2012 by Mordred Ocal
In the first Future Fleets Development Blog, I will be discussing the history of the Future Fleets site, as well as touching upon our goals for the near future.

As some of our oldest testers can confirm, the Future Fleets site has been in active development for over three years now. In 2010, we began Alpha and closed Beta testing, and by early 2011, we learned that the site was just not ready for launch yet.

Fast forward another year. We have learned a great many things about building a solid website, and we have had some time to reflect upon the strengths and weaknesses of the game we were trying to build. This allowed us to formulate a new plan for redesigning the site from the ground up - using whatever elements we could salvage to keep development moving quickly, while, at the same time, removing the site's many flaws.

While, overall, the game was praised as an exciting and ambitious attempt to recreate the world of Star Trek in a "simple" browser-based game, what we failed to accomplish in our first attempt was making the game fluid and intuitive. New testers had a great many questions about how they should start the game, and many felt the interfaces were clunky.

Additionally, the site was in no way responsive. This essentially meant that the site content remained the same size regardless of how big or small the visitor's screen or window was.

Over the past month or so, we focused almost entirely on a full redesign of the user interface. This meant experimenting with dozens of different settings, layouts, and graphics until we found a combination that just felt right. Are we 100% finished with our work? Most certainly not, but we have made great progress in improving the overall feel and functionality of the site just by fixing the theme and layout failings of our previous designs.

What comes next? If we are able to stick to a realistic deadline of two weeks of additional work on the "public" sections of the site, we will then we able to shift our focus to designing the experience of our actual users. This is where things get really complex because the game requires a number of different interfaces depending upon what features are being utilized at any given point in time.

To give an example, the member landing page will operate differently than the "Explore" feature (which allows players to navigate their characters from location to location). Those will both differ greatly from the various console functions which are available when their characters access a computer terminal.

Additionally, we would like to add more interactivity to the site in the form of jQuery elements. These would not only give the site a smoother, more futuristic feel, they would help reduce the number of times a player has to refresh or reload the page just to change or update a minor thing.

Overall, we are very impressed with the way things are going during this new phase of development, and we are cautiously optimistic that the next few months will lead to some exciting changes for a site we have worked so hard on for so many years.
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