PSA #2 - A series of free updates: the future of Demigod

Making Demigod Better

By on November 22, 2010 4:22:23 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

pacov

Join Date 02/2008
+182

Hello folks,

For those of you that followed the Demigod development journals in the past, you are aware that we’ve likely received all of the major patch updates we’ll get in Demigod.  The last post in the development journals related to patches indicated that we’ll receive a “series of free updates” from GPG (GPG is Gas Powered Games – they are the developer of Demigod.  Stardock is the publisher of the game and doesn’t handle coding/patching changes outside of hosting/staging the patched versions via impulse).  As of today, we haven’t received any of those free updates, which we can actually view as good news – as it means we can potentially still get fixes and changes implemented into the game.  

To that end, I have a plan (which I’ll cover in a little bit).

We still have several talented modders in the community that are even today coming up with ways to make Demigod an even better game.  Take the AI, for instance.  The standard AI in Demigod has always been somewhat lackluster and certainly in need of improvement.  The generic AI would not use logical builds or make item selections based on how an experienced person would.  Thanks to the modders and feedback from the community, if you install the Enhanced AI mod, you will find that the AI chooses intelligent builds, intelligent items, purchases the most useful citadel upgrades at the right time, prioritizes flags that should be controlled, etc.  

Now, if we take a look at the bug fixing side of things, the community modders have coded a mod called uberfix.  This mod corrects exploits that shouldn’t exist in the game, fixes bugs, makes it so Occulus’s abilities work as described, etc.  We all want the game to work the way it should and this mod gets it there and is continually being improved upon as additional bugs are discovered. 

Onto the UI (user interface – eg the stuff you see on the screen that tells you how much health you have, etc) side of things: the modders again have provided some significant enhancements that really add to the overall Demigod experience.  There are mods that indicate how many summoned minions you have, mods that simply make it so instead of just seeing a green/blue bar for health/mana you see the text value of your health/mana on top of that, mods that add an overlayed window showing your teams health and mana, and last, but not least, mods that allow you to see what items your teammates have simply by mousing over them.  On 1/22/2011, I created a combined UI mod that you can simply download, install, and enable in game and it will give you all of the benefits I describe above:  http://forums.demigodthegame.com/404410

What's the problem with things as they are today?

OK – so we have quite a few great mods that really improve the Demigod experience.  So what’s the problem – eg why would we want any of these changes patched into Demigod itself?  Well, the easiest example is that (using uberfix and the enhanced AI mod as examples) you can’t play games with anyone else UNLESS they have these mods installed.  As our community is small, this means that anytime you choose to enable these mods in multiplayer, you are excluding folks from your game that do not have the required mods installed.  This generally results in players NOT using mods like uberfix and Enhanced AI as it is much easier to get a game going without them.  So, we can solve most of Demigod’s shortcomings ourselves, but we can only play with folks from the community if they have installed the mods themselves (and I’d wager about 70% of the existing community do not have the mods installed).  

The Plan

We have a few directions we could try to move in. 

  • We can see if Stardock would be willing to add a group of mods directly to their demigod distributable (I DO NOT know if this is something they can do as a publisher or not).  This way, EVERYONE would have the core mods and the host could simply enable and disable the mods as desired.  The downside with this approach is that I can guarantee that Stardock would not be releasing a new demigod package every time a new update was created for a mod (which puts us right back into the same boat we are in now).  But on the plus side, it would still be a substantial improvement and would enable every demigod player to join every game and get the benefit of the mods without having to directly install them.  
  • Another option would be to integrate several of the coding changes found in the mods directly into demigod (eg update the dgdata.zip).  This way, no mods need to be loaded as they would  be a core part of Demigod and we’d just get an updated release.  More on how to pull this off in a bit.
  • And the final option, would be to do a little of both.  We’d integrate the fixes found in several of the mods directly into demigod AND have a few additional mods that would be loaded info the modding folder in Demigod so that players could use them as desired.  

So, how can we pull any of this off?  

Here’s what I’m thinking – documentation.  A lot of it.  Sounds fun, I know.  Let’s suppose that the community puts our heads together and comes up with an archive of information we can submit to Stardock and have them forward over to the folks at GPG.  The overall premise is that the easier we can make the changes for them, the more likely we’ll actually see them implemented.  It’s one thing to tell GPG we have a problem with Occulus – please fix it.  It’s another thing entirely to provide the exact code required to implement the fix and perhaps even document exactly what the problem was in code.  

What I imagine would be several things.  The original lua for each file that is being updated.  The updated lua for each file that is being updated (including everything that was in the original lua along with the coding fixes).  An updated lua file that includes ONLY the fix.  An explanation of what is wrong and the solution.  Validation that testing was performed on the change.  A finalized compiled dgdata.zip for use in the next release of Demigod including all of the coding changes. 

All of that said, even if we compiled all of this, there is no guarantee we could get anything implemented.  I’m guessing Stardock would have some control over adding some mods directly to the package in impulse, but don’t know if they’d need a buy in from GPG to do something like that.  And I don’t really know how much assistance we’d get from GPG to make any of this happen.  But, we can always give it go. 

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December 8, 2010 12:17:19 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Could you point me in the direction for the latest mods? I could try to play around with it. I can't stand waiting around for a game, even a minute or two bugs me, so I usually play a few single player here and there. I saw your test games up last night but didn't know where to get the newest mods.

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December 8, 2010 1:15:55 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

http://forums.impulsedriven.com/399399/

See link of the latest.  You should be aware that I'm typically using the latest release of the mods, and at the very least, the ai skirmish mod is getting lots of updates. 

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December 9, 2010 10:41:20 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Another update - the ai skirmish mod is continuing to progress nicely and now favormod is starting to receive more and more balancing/bufixes/tweaks as we go over the gameplay with a fine tooth comb.  If you see one of my games up and you would like to join, just grab the latest versions of the mod and join me. 

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December 10, 2010 5:00:35 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I think anything that improves the online multiplayer experience is to be commended. I don't play single player against the ai but the majority of people who own the game do and i'm sure would appreciate the ai fix. It's in GPG's interest to facilitate these fixes as it's very little work on their part and if they do develop DG2 then at least they will have an improved initial customer base with the people who are still playing an improved DG1. Also the more "fixed" the game becomes the more the scars will fade on the reputations with the buying public of both Stardock and GPG.

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December 10, 2010 7:14:38 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Community QA is not a thing that has ever happened, and never will.

There is a little game development company you may have heard of that does indeed have a community testing team... Firaxis.  They released a new title recently called Civilization V, maybe you have heard of it?

I applaud Pacov's efforts in this matter.  Here is a quick tip... if you want GPG to implement something you have to make it mind-numbingly simple for them to do it to the point where it takes only one person, one day to follow your instructions.  A line-item text file that literally breaks it down to "on line 798 of file X replace "X with "Y".  Seriously, when it is all written down go through and make the required changes yourself with a stopwatch! (I'm not joking).  Then pass the message along to GPG that it took 7 hours 59 minutes of someones time, or however long it really takes but under 1 day is the target.  Going to be hard to ignore that.

By far the biggest issue for developers is time, and it's the one thing the community has in abundance so leverage that to your advantage.  I would go so far as to say time spent on the documentation (to reduce the dev implementation time) is 10x more important than time spent on fixes/bugs themselves.

I believe you can do it!  Thanks for all the effort.

 

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December 10, 2010 1:34:28 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting GM-MAGNUS333,

Community QA is not a thing that has ever happened, and never will.
There is a little game development company you may have heard of that does indeed have a community testing team... Firaxis.  They released a new title recently called Civilization V, maybe you have heard of it?

I applaud Pacov's efforts in this matter.  Here is a quick tip... if you want GPG to implement something you have to make it mind-numbingly simple for them to do it to the point where it takes only one person, one day to follow your instructions.  A line-item text file that literally breaks it down to "on line 798 of file X replace "X with "Y".  Seriously, when it is all written down go through and make the required changes yourself with a stopwatch! (I'm not joking).  Then pass the message along to GPG that it took 7 hours 59 minutes of someones time, or however long it really takes but under 1 day is the target.  Going to be hard to ignore that.

By far the biggest issue for developers is time, and it's the one thing the community has in abundance so leverage that to your advantage.  I would go so far as to say time spent on the documentation (to reduce the dev implementation time) is 10x more important than time spent on fixes/bugs themselves.

I believe you can do it!  Thanks for all the effort.

 

magnus333

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December 11, 2010 5:48:22 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

If you honestly believe that 2K didn't do heavy internal QA on Civ V, then I want some of whatever you're smokin'.  Tons of companies do open betas, and in every case those betas are already heavily-tested release-candidate material.  An open beta is a secondary testing stage at best, to help identify smaller issues that aren't game-breaking but make it past internal testing.

No publisher would ever consider doing zero internal QA on a patch release after the Tribes 2 patch-recall debacle.  Worse yet, if someone actually suggested 'community QA' on a 'community-provided patch' to one of the suits working for any half self-respecting publisher, they'd be laughed out of his office, and for good reason.

 

I'd be flattered if my fixes to the game made it into an official patch, but I'm not so naive as to believe that it will happen without significant testing and modification by original developer/publisher.

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December 11, 2010 6:24:23 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I'm really not trying to come across as hostile when it comes to this issue, although I think I'm failing at that.

Try to understand that I stand to lose the most in any of the community's preferred means of officiating these fixes-- lots of unpaid time spent creating docs for fixes in a game I rarely play; the expectation that my very amateur work based on little or no actual programming experience and less than 3 months spent working with the internals of the game will be expected to hold up well in comparison to that of the original development team that spent 2 years with the game, and that it doesn't need 'real' QA, etc.

Anyone else in the same situation would (hopefully) be just as unwilling to shovel their barely-tested, unprofessional code down the throats of every single casual player of the game, including all of those who don't play online, those who don't post on the forums, and every single person who will buy and patch the game from now until Stardock stops selling it.  Yikes.

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December 13, 2010 4:06:25 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting miriyaka,
I'm really not trying to come across as hostile when it comes to this issue, although I think I'm failing at that.


Anyone else in the same situation would (hopefully) be just as unwilling to shovel their barely-tested, unprofessional code down the throats of every single casual player of the game, including all of those who don't play online, those who don't post on the forums, and every single person who will buy and patch the game from now until Stardock stops selling it.  Yikes.

You've explained a few things that I previously lacked any understanding of, so I appreciate your perspective and haven't found you hostile at all... just a little too realistic for some peoples taste perhaps?

My next question would be of course, how about if there was a solution that didn't involve ramming your code down anybodies throat, would that be feasible?

Step 1: Miriyaka, being the altruistic dude that you is, writes a Mod that reduces Unclean Beast's Spit range from 15 to 10.  

Step 2: Pacov decides this Mod makes UB just overpowered, instead of super over-overpowered and should be available to one and all.

Step 3: Pacov talks to Stardock, Stardock talks to GPG... then much time passes.

Step 4: A patch comes that gives everyone the "Un-Official, Use At Your Own Risk, Not As Overpowered Unclean Beast Mod" 

Step 5: I host a game titled "Beast Isn't Quite As Overpowered As He Was Before!  Yay!"  People can just enable the mod and join the game, instead of having to navigate a forum they might not know exists, in a language they might not understand very well, to find a mod they might not know how to install.

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December 13, 2010 4:42:12 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

It would make me a lot less nervous about yet-undiscovered issues affecting everyone's playing experience, but doing that with a bugfix mod introduces a different problem: there's still no way for me, the mod-maker, to update the mod without going back to the situation that exists now where only a handful of people have the 'new' version, and it doesn't get used.  Now presumably there won't be that many fixable bugs left in Demigod after the next Uberfix release, but if there is an actual problem caused by the patch-released version of the mod, there's nothing I can really do about it, and I just have to hope people will be more willing to put up with that issue than with those that the mod fixes.

If the next release of the UberFix is used in a tournament and proves more or less stable, I would definitely have no real reservations about doing this.  The kinds of bugs I'm finding at this point are few and far between, and so obscure that if they have to go un-fixed, then oh well.

 

There's a completely different problem that tends to occur when doing this with a balance-type mod: it can actually worsen the existing fracturing of the community over mods.  You'd get a scenario where instead of 5-10% of multiplayer games being hosted with mods and the rest 'pure', you'd have a bunch of people hosting games with the patch-provided mods, making it difficult for the people who don't want to play with those mods to find a game.

This is less of a problem with a big, thriving multiplayer community, but as with DG where there are 2-3 games forming in US primetime, having half or more of those 'undesirable' to a given player because of a balance mod or lack thereof is something of an issue.  Of course there are people who are willing to play in both game types or who don't know the difference, but the majority always tend to have a strong preference one way or another.

 

In the case of really important exploit/bug-fixing issues, I'm all for having it included in a patch so everyone has to use it, I'd just prefer it to be looked over and tested by a publisher/developer if it's gonna be using my code.

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December 13, 2010 9:10:00 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I honestly think that if we can get GPG/SD to include some mods as part of a patch update they likely won't have to do any testing ON THE MODS - note - ON THE MODS.  That's the number 1 reason why I wouldn't want to incorporate the enhanced ai mod directly in the dgdata.zip (eg part of the game's code). Any mod we are able to add would be installed on all copies of dg, but not enabled by default in the game unless the host chose to turn it on.  And if the host chose to turn it on, everyone would be able to join that game and use whatever mod was chosen.  And then it could fall under a general disclaimer in the patch notes indicating that these are community created mods and GPG is not responsible for the content or something to that effect if desired.

But - I actually want to get some fixes from uberfix directly incorporated in the dgdata.zip so that those changes are ALWAYS ON for all users.  Any change like that would have to be tested by GPG/SD to ensure things are working as expected.  There is a ZERO percent chance that if we get this done that code like this would NOT be reviewed by GPG and/or SD.

And I don't remember if I've said so before or not, but my goal would be to have certain fixes plucked from uberfix and added to the game, then an updated version of uberfix (that backed out whatever changes GPG was willing to implement) created and submitted as a mod that could be included. 

 

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December 25, 2010 3:16:21 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

hey folks - just a quick update - we've been making a lot of progress on several mods.  Things tend to slow down around the holidays, so I expect we'll finalize a few things and then open a thread including the changes we request for a patch in the next 2-3 weeks. 

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December 26, 2010 11:19:39 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

pacov you are a stud! 

I had the game off of my drive for the past couple of months after I started fresh with a new HD..  but this post has inspired me to reinstall and get it fired back up.

My main gripe is still the same though... sitting in a lobby twiddling my thumbs.
I forget..  can I window the game and play some Desktop Dungeons while I wait?

Here's to hope...  on both counts

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January 13, 2011 11:01:49 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

@Mauxe

 

yes you can i play in windowed mode all the time (on the rare occasion that i play over the net) just enable it in your options. however, do note that your computer will reduce the resources dedicated to the game so unless you have a very new/powerful pc, you may want to be careful with the loading occurring with demigod (causes sim lag if you dont have enough resources left).


Also ai is much better now so if you dont want to sit in a lobby start there, and maybe join pacovs (lagwar) ventrillo server (details can be found with the search button up the top. There is nearly always someone there willing to have a game.

 

Exx

 

 

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January 25, 2011 12:39:37 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I just found this which is something i was looking for: where is demigod going? i think its already dead i guess. but i dont mind playing it. im just not good enough to play online. i really suck.

 

well pacov, thank you for your efforts, i love this game and i love your contributions. I know that the beginning this would've meant a lot but: plus karma for you!

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January 25, 2011 1:04:01 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

hey vita - glad you found this thread.  Saw your post elsewhere today and was going to reply, but you cut me off at the pass (do a search for "PSA" for a few of my other semi-recent posts about demigod).  Anyway, I understand the general feeling about demigod, but I also am strangely confident there might be a future.  And even if there is not, I'm Completely confident that Stardock will be sponsoring several of our upcoming tournaments - SOOOOOOOO - if you are a bit rusty, welcome back. 

In complete honestly - here's what the current dg population is.  Experienced players that are die hard fans, smurf accounts (these are folks that are experienced but choose to create/purchase new accounts to play anonymously (reason = want to stomp folks, want to catch folks cheating (its me), want to play with their friends, and simply want to play anonymously), and new players.  We actually have a half way decent new player population (stardock has been AWESOME about $5 demigod sales and promoting our tournaments), but many of them do not bother with the forums.  Anyway, demigod is alive and well for some time, without any additional support from the developers.  That said, I'll do EVERYTHING I can do to improve demigod as a game as I love, and many other die hards do as well. 

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January 26, 2011 11:53:30 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I cut you off? how? when? IM sorry!!! I wil search that up, thanks for the info

 

I hope someday some company can jumpstart it again... with more features like a campaign and map editor...

I was always rusty, no joke i am still bad even today): no hope for me! more hopeless then the game lol):

Im happy to hear the player news! and 5$??? oh jee, maybe i shouldve waited on my purchase^_^

Thank you for your help, i think that the developers should be quite embarrassed by how much better you made things yourself. You've out done them really, fixing what they failed at. They most certainly have a bad rep in my book, but i am thankful for demigod. Like you said, hope lies in stardocks future efforts now. IM guessing this game is now just a jewel of gaming really. no longer mainstream though..

 

I cant wait to see what else you will do.

You will prob find me in the skinning section. im handy with photoshop so i will try and learn the tricks there. im going to finish my vegetation castle type Rook and possibly move on to QOT and Sedna. once im done with all of them.. as crazy as this sounds but i wanna even try to raise some money for that granny program. which im sure i can but i hope its not complicated because if i dont learn how to use it then it would be pointless.

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January 26, 2011 3:03:39 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

as crazy as this sounds but i wanna even try to raise some money for that granny program. which im sure i can but i hope its not complicated because if i dont learn how to use it then it would be pointless.

I'd wager there is enough talent left in the modding community that one copy of Granny could generate some new maps.  No real idea how complex it is to learn/use. 

Thank you for your help, i think that the developers should be quite embarrassed by how much better you made things yourself. You've out done them really, fixing what they failed at. They most certainly have a bad rep in my book, but i am thankful for demigod. Like you said, hope lies in stardocks future efforts now. IM guessing this game is now just a jewel of gaming really. no longer mainstream though..

Well, to be clear, I'm actually just a so-so modder (learned some LUA on the fly, but its not really a primary language for me).  I'm just good at organizing and cheer leading for folks that understand the code better and I'm very good at QA testing to help push the processes along. 

I think it goes without saying that we'd love to see this or that fixed in Demigod, but I do understand the business side of things.  Is it financially viable to dedicate a resource and continue to shell out patches on a game after the developer has moved onto other projects?  Not really.  On the bright side, thanks to the talented modders that we still have, we are light years ahead of where the AI was, can see new possibilties, and so on.  Anyway, hope for a patch lives on. 

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January 26, 2011 11:24:06 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

i'd be happy to donate for anything that could help people building other maps. competitive maps for 2v2 or 3v3.

what does it take to have new maps created by modders?

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January 27, 2011 2:36:58 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

i'd be happy to donate for anything that could help people building other maps. competitive maps for 2v2 or 3v3.

I concur with my colleague!

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January 27, 2011 8:39:06 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Side note, just so we are clear - I believe the software in question runs right around $10,000. 

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January 27, 2011 9:23:07 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Also just so we're clear, Granny uses a special licensing model that would not make it legal to share among donors/modders, even if 10 grand weren't waaaay too much money to donate to one person to buy a license.

I'm not even sure that GPG are using the standard granny mesh formats.  Granny has extremely extensible format support, and if GPG made some proprietary changes to the format they were using, you'd be SOL even with the program.

 

It's much more realistic (and legal, surprisingly) to put a few hundred dollar bounty on a reverse-engineering of the particular granny format that GPG used for purposes of making 3DSMAX/XSI/Blender exporters for it.

And it would have been even more realistic to do that like a year and a half ago, while there was an active modding community.  Welp.

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January 27, 2011 9:57:16 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

It's much more realistic (and legal, surprisingly) to put a few hundred dollar bounty on a reverse-engineering of the particular granny format that GPG used for purposes of making 3DSMAX/XSI/Blender exporters for it.

well... u obviously know more about what's going on here.  Any free way to find out if you are correct or not?  Best to spend money if there is hope instead of wasting, ofc.

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January 27, 2011 10:38:09 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I'm not a 'real' programmer nor a modeler, so I've not a clue how to go about dissecting a mesh format, only that it's possible, as there are many unofficial, user-made importers/exporters for all sorts of formats for those three modeling programs, including non-published formats.

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January 27, 2011 11:16:36 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting miriyaka,
I'm not a 'real' programmer nor a modeler, so I've not a clue how to go about dissecting a mesh format, only that it's possible, as there are many unofficial, user-made importers/exporters for all sorts of formats for those three modeling programs, including non-published formats.

gotcha - so you think its possible, but its not "your bag."    Shame we've lost the talented map makers like scottishalien.  Not sure how much he knows about this, but he certainly had a great understanding for design. 

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