FutureFleets

BETA TESTING
State of the Site
Posted October 18th 2013 by Raemet

Over the past six weeks, development has been progressing at a rapid pace. We have made a number of major changes to the site, including significant cosmetic changes to the Future Fleets Database and thousands of lines of code changes for the Future Fleets Game. This is all the more impressive when you consider that most of us are doing this in our free time.

One week ago today, we wrapped up preliminary work on the Future Fleets Database, a feature which, we hope, will bring the Star Trek simming community closer together. Right now, there are hundreds of simulations and over a thousand different characters spread out across the world. They are divided by many things - themes, fleets, adherence to canon, era - but there is little or nothing that unites them aside from a common passion for Star Trek. We want to change that.

We want to make it easier for simms and fleets to find new players, and we want to make it easier for new players to find them. We want to post articles about simming, post interviews with experienced and well-known simmers, and point everyone towards the latest and greatest resources for running a successful simm. Why? Because there is no reason not to.

The simming community is exceptionally talented, and its individual members possess many amazing skills from writing to graphic design to 3D rendering. Imagine what would happen if all of us worked together. We could infinitely improve the quality of our respective simms, find players more easily, and rally behind worthwhile causes, events, or storyline. We are not saying that creating the Future Fleets Database is like founding an online version of the Federation, but we do think it would be pretty incredible if the walls between us began to crumble and a newer, more unified simming community resulted from having a single, communal resource like this site.

We're just saying - it may be a longshot, but it's a worthwhile endeavor.

And so the Future Fleets Database is now live. Membership is, admittedly, stagnant at the moment while we lobby the various simming fleets to promote our site to their members. We were fortunate enough to demonstrate our site to one of the largest simming organizations on the Internet earlier this week, and we spent a great deal of time discussing our site with two others. Two more have active delegates testing things out beyond the three fleets mentioned above, so overall, we are optimistic that the adoption of our site by even a couple of those fleets will help our membership grow to a point where the Database becomes self-sustaining and routinely visited.

Our other major site feature, of course, is the Future Fleets Game.

As many of our visitors know, the Future Fleets Game was originally released in a very primitive form (Version 2) back in 2011. It was considered "cool, but a little too complicated." In the two years since, we have gone back to the drawing board, learned new skills, and been redeveloping the game from the ground up.

With the exception of the time we have spent polishing up the Simm Database, nearly all of our time this month has been spent converting the old version of the game to a new FFv3 system. The code is cleaner and more efficient, and the theming is a million times better than the old version.

System by system, we have been working to convert the old game over, and we are now nearing the point of completion. At present, an Alpha Tester on the site can create a character, start their adventure in San Francisco, move to different Starfleet facilities, learn new skills, train in the holodeck, beam to Earth Spacedock, purchase items from shops, move to their ship, and store the items in their quarters. Players can also use consoles to perform dozens of other different starship functions like target enemy vessels, fire weapons, raise shields, and divert power to the engines. Docking, tractor beams, and sublight and warp travel all work. It's, candidly, really impressive when you take a step back and think about the amount of complexity these simms have.

So now the question becomes - what is left?

There are still a handful of features from the old game we need to convert. Mining resources, using workbee shuttles to build starships, and using drydocks to build starships are still on our to-do list. Using equipped items such as phasers, tricorders, and medical instruments is also pending. Location-specific chat functionality will be added, too. And we still need to perform a code audit on all of the functions we've converted from V2 to V3.

Beyond that, we need to retheme a significant number of systems from the old game. The Explore page works, but the icons are a bit dated and will need an overhaul. The Components section is also an eye sore, as are all of the console function pages (many of which should really be combined for ease of use, at some point).

There are also a number of new features we want to add before year's end such as improved Skill Management and Fleet Management. We still have not added a functional Banking system, and by far the biggest challenge of all will be the newly designed (but still not implemented) Mission, Exploration, Planetary Resource, Colonization, and Planetary Conquest systems. More on those next month.

Our current timeline (always subject to change) is as follows:

  • October - Wrap up all remaining coding and converting for existing functionality. Time permitting, complete retheming of old systems.
  • November - Implement all new systems and test for compatibility with existing functionality. Extended Alpha Testing. Add more star systems, planets, resources, et cetera.
  • Decemeber - Beta Testing with NX-class vessels. More star systems, planets, resources, skills, items, and starship classes.
  • January 1st, 2014 - Launch the game!

As you can see, we have quite a bit on our plates leading up to January 1st, and while we are cautiously optimistic that we will hit or beat that deadline, we never know what bumps or real-world distractions could set us back in the interim.

All of that said, however, we are very excited about the progress we have made so far, and we are even more excited about the work that remains. We know it won't be easy, but this project is very near and dear to our hearts, and we hope that you will all enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed testing it (if not moreso).

We realize it may never be perfect, but we see it as a starting point for a much more elaborate and enjoyable game in the future. Until then, we want to remind you to keep checking back for news and updates, and don't forget that we will be releasing limited edition promo items on a weekly basis or so to anyone who registers their existing characters here from now until launch. That means that if you register now, you'll be able to get each week's new promo item before we retire them FOREVER!

As always, we want to thank you all for your continued interest and support. Have a great weekend, and don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all sorts of behind-the-scenes updates and screenshots!

Sincerely,

Raemet
Developer and Lead Graphics Monkey, Future Fleets Project

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