FutureFleets

BETA TESTING
Development Blog - Week Two
Posted August 21st, 2012 by Raemet
In this week's edition of the Dev Blog, we'll be discussing the changes we are planning on making to the Future Fleets game over the next few weeks, but first, we wanted to briefly touch upon yesterday's launch of our new site and theme.

For those of you who have been faithfully following the long, sometimes endless trek of this site through development, you know that it has been over a year since the last major update. This was due to a number of things - changes in our real world schedules, positive but unenthusiastic reviews to our Beta testing, and our own lack of satisfaction with what was quickly becoming the final product. We decided to take some time off to get some perspective and focus on other projects for a bit, and in the past 18 months, we have learned a great deal about what, exactly, our site was missing and what it needed to succeed moving forward.

And so, this summer, we decided the wait was over. We needed to resume work, and we needed to start fresh. A new, responsive theme, more public content (hence this blog), more frequent updates, and most importantly, far more solid underlying architecture.

For the past two months or so, we have spent countless hours rebuilding the non-member pages of this site from the ground up. Any pre-existing code was reviewed for flaws and inefficiencies, and new code was added to spice things up a bit. Mostly, though, this was just a trial run for the rest of the site. We wanted to see exactly what the site *could* look like under different circumstances, with multiple possible themes, and more interactive elements on the page. While not entirely complete (we will be adding left and right menus, and more public content soon), the current release of our theme and layout is the end result of that process.

A number of new factors are inconspicuously in play on the new version of the site - our theme is constructed in such a way that theme templates can be easily switched out when characters from different alliances are active, and everything changes based on the size of your screen. Additionally, a minimal amount of jQuery has been added, with a lot more in the wings for implementation in the game itself, and new code and logic has been added to fix some of the bugs in our previous themes.

The next phase of our development will focus on the Account Management section of the site. This includes the Account Overview page when players login, character creation, password reset functionality, and our character/ship database. This may all sounds very simple, but there is a lot going on here.

For one, the Account Overview page will give brief summaries of each character's statistics. Where are they? What are they doing? Do they have any messages? Anything important going on? From there, users can edit the accounts of existing characters, or they can add new characters (up to five total per account).

With respect to the character creation section of the site, this feature is a monster in and of itself. To start, players must choose an alliance (the Federation is default, of course), and from there, they must select one of the valid Federation species. Once they have made their decision, they must fill in all the biographical details about the character, and then they need to make sure that the character has all of the skills and abilities they want to start with. For example, if I make my character full Betazoid, they'll have the Telepathic ability, but if I make them half Betazoid, they'll only have the Empathic ability. And, which career path should I choose?

To make things more complicated, we are giving testers and early adopters access to limited edition perks which will need to be setup well before testing resumes. For instance, Klingons will not be available by default when creating a Federation character, but we will gladly provide Klingon Tokens for anyone who already has an established Klingon character playing on an active role-playing simulation somewhere. Another perk will be rank upgrades - again, for characters that are already at an elevated level on an established Star Trek simulation.

There will likely be drawbacks to all hand-outs, of course. Klingons who serve the Federation might lose an attribute which increases certain stats, and characters who are given Promotion Points to increase their characters' ranks will not be nearly as skilled as other characters who have worked their ways up through the ranks, so it's a trade-off. Captains and Fleets will have the freedom to promote whoever they want, but those who allow the game to manage promotions based on skills and experience will find that their characters are a lot more valuable in the long run.

Beyond the character creation aspect of the game, we will also have a character and simulation database for anyone who is an avid "simmer" but who does not want to participate in the game portion of the site. The database will allow registered users to post and advertise their characters and simulations, and it will conversely give players and captains access to an unlimited archive of players and "simms" that they can learn more about. Captains and Fleets will even be able to advertise their open positions, and they can use the Future Fleets site to "stake a claim" to specific ship, starbase, or fleet names.

In all, we have quite a bit of work ahead of us, and we are anticipating that this portion of development will take until the end of September, or possibly October. Once that is done, we will be shifting our focus to the game itself, which is fairly complete but in dire need of an overhaul and recode. We expect this portion of development to last at least until January 1st, 2013, but we will continue working hard, and we just might be able to begin testing a bit earlier.

Fingers crossed, everyone! And keep checking back for more exciting news and content!
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