Welcome to Verra! …It’s Time to Break the World

Glorious Greetings Ashes Community! Since this is my first article on the AoC Dungeon I borrowed Steven’s salutations for the first and last time. For those that are not aware (probably most of you), the Ashes of Creation Wiki site is collaborating with the AoC Dungeon to bring the community expanded content that we don’t feel would be appropriate for the wiki. The wiki is fully sourced, and not based on opinion, speculation, or off hand unofficial comments. That said, sometimes you just want to tell people what you think, whether that be to discuss, demerit, or celebrate a topic. Therefore, we felt like the AoC Dungeon was a great place to host all our various ramblings. Our newly added guest editor team consists of BraneGames, Chaoser, Deus, Tiberius, Ziltch, and everyone’s favorite vampire hunter. I hope you find our content enjoyable and informative!

With that introduction, the first topic I wanted to discuss was testing. Ashes of Creation has been a very different experience so far compared to most game development. Intrepid has been incredibly accessible and interactive with the community. This is almost unheard of for large scale development, as most games are built in secret to avoid showing the dirty laundry. However, this can lead to unfortunate experiences upon launch …see No Man’s Sky. That said, the other major development difference with Intrepid is the fact that this is a true testing and development environment. We aren’t following the recent MMO trend of “early access” that treats the unfinished game as a final product. This is a true journey of revelation and discovery, with none of the warts hidden.

So where are we? Let’s consult the Phase Map! (for detailed information have a look at the release schedule!)

450px-AshesRoadmap9.png


As you can see we’re currently in the Alpha 1 Stress Test, which is basically a pre-phase. The purpose of this was to get the servers operable for large scale battlegrounds, sieges, and the deployment of action combat. While Alpha 0 did have many people online at once, they were spread out and only using the tab targeting combat system. Stress levels involved with the servers having a large number of players compressed into a small area and with the level of input and physics involved with action combat are much greater than anything experienced in Alpha 0. With the data gathered from this pre-phase Intrepid has a goal of moving us forward to the first full phase of Alpha 1. *updated edit* As of late Friday night 10/19 testing has officially moved to Phase 1.

Now a word of warning for both the stress test, as well as parts of phase 1 …the testing is taking place in a special lobby-based battle royale version of Ashes. This BR version is not to be confused with the MMORPG, and other than the combat mechanics and back end has nothing to do with it. This special version may be kept and developed alongside but separately from Ashes of Creation. It is the same IP but should not be considered a reflection of Ashes of Creation the MMORPG. The castle siege and horde mode testing will be somewhat more reflective of Ashes as those will be elements integrated into the MMORPG. Once we move forward to Alpha 1 Phase 2, we’ll see the first true iteration of Ashes of Creation. This will have the actual game world, RPG mechanics, and the tab / action hybrid combat system in place. This is where the rubber truly hits the road, and where I welcome people to start forming opinions on the game.

So now you’re probably wondering how you can contribute to the process since you’re aware it’s a true testing phase, not early access. Well, the first thing to know is to not stress about it if you don’t have testing experience. Even just playing normally generates logs filled with useful data, and logging in adds connection stress to the servers. Now you’re logged in, playing the game, having fun, but you’ve decided you want to become a better tester so that more bugs can be fixed. Well that’s great! Let’s look at how we all fit into the gears of the testing machine.

The first step is to establish your priorities during your testing. How much time do you have to devote to testing? If you have 15 minutes, just logging in and participating is about all you can do. The logs you generated are still appreciated, but you shouldn’t expect to have any in depth analysis or find a dozen bugs. If you have a large block of time available, then the next question is what has Intrepid asked for? If there have been any special requests posted in discord or on the forums, do your best to accommodate them. This could be something simple like please login and spam abilities as much as you can to help crash the server or speak with a specific NPC and try to break the dialogue. If Intrepid hasn’t requested anything specific, then just go try things you enjoy, but with the mindset of I’m not just playing, I’m breaking.

The last piece of priority is bugs. Bugs have a wide variety of types and impacts on the game. The most important things to test are critical bugs that are game debilitating. These are the bugs that crash servers, or generally make it impossible to continue playing. If you learn of these, test them, break things, report it. One note on bugs is that they are actual errors in the game, unexpected actions or results that the developers did not intend. Things that aren’t broken, but you dislike aren’t bugs, those are opinions. While it’s important to provide feedback on these things, they aren’t as critical as bugs are. When you have limited time or specific directives don’t focus on opinions.

We established our priorities, and now we’re out testing. The next step in testing, and potentially the most important is to ask questions. If you just play the game, and don’t question anything you see then you aren’t contributing as much as you could. While you adventure around ask yourself “What is this supposed to do?”, if it the result doesn’t match the expectation then you found a bug. Then you need to ask if anyone else has found this? Is there any other way to break this? Get creative in how you apply things! Wander Verra, question everything, and have fun.

So, you came home and decided to test tonight, but lo and behold, you cannot login. Part of testing is dealing with the fact that it’s very random. You might be unable to login because we just crashed the server, a patch is being deployed, or because it’s just down until the next scheduled testing time. It’s essential during development for the community to be flexible. Both testing times and priorities can shift rapidly, and without warning. Discord could be a quiet place, and then Intrepid could pop up an @here and request that 31 people login quickly and all dance in circles. Now things are lively and hopping. Don’t come into things with that early access I’m here to play mindset. We’re here to Make MMORPGs Great Again! So be prepared to do your part.

Along with that flexibility comes having a positive attitude. Wade Boggs is a Hall of Fame former professional baseball player, and I think he said it best. “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” Testing can be a long, arduous journey and isn’t always fun. We need to keep in mind that well …it’s Alpha (eventually Beta!). There are going to be a lot of bumps in the road but keep your chin up about it. We aren’t just here to play a game and have fun, we’re here to test. Think of it as one step up from a job, and that should help keep things in perspective. However, there is a reason for our toil, and that’s our contributions to the future. All our hard work will pay off come launch time, and then you can say that you personally helped Make MMORPGs Great Again! A caveat to this, is while I say stay positive, that doesn’t mean agree with every decision. Have an opinion, make a complaint, but do it without anger.

You have a great attitude, a strong willingness to help, and you ask yourself all the right questions. What’s next then? Good communication of course! It’s great to talk to yourself while you test, sitting alone, in a dark room, staring intently at the screen … However, in order to really maximize your contributions you need to get engaged with both the developers, and the rest of the community. This means chatting with others in game, getting on discord, and possibly even braving the forums (for the truly stalwart heart you could also hit up reddit). Be aware of what’s going on, and make sure your voice is heard. Again though, be positive not angry. It’s great to be critical and to have a differing viewpoint. It’s not helpful to throw around inflammatory rhetoric or personal insults. We’re all people here, and we need to be respectful of that.

Next after we’ve established our lines of communication we need to put it to good use by engaging our analytical skills, and really putting our sense of curiosity into overdrive. While bugs and exploits sometimes fall right into your lap, most the time you must go hunt for them. While you explore the nooks and crannies of Verra you need to really think outside the bun. Sure, anyone can order a hamburger and be happy, but sometimes you just really need a burrito. So, look everywhere for that hidden path and the unusual tactic, really get creative! Keep in mind that if you can think of it, somebody else can too, so you need to test that idea. Ideas that aren’t tested now, are exploited after launch. There’s no such thing as something you shouldn’t try, no idea or action is stupid or unnecessary. Intrepid creates the game with the way it’s obviously intended to be done, so find the way they didn’t expect so you can find weaknesses they didn’t plan for. Besides, getting creative with it isn’t just necessary for finding bugs, it’s fun! Whenever you think “this would be cool if”, then you need to test that if. Was it cool? Did it break? Provide that feedback!

Speaking of feedback, all the testing and communications in the world is mostly worthless if you don’t report things. When you find something wrong, document it, and send that data in. You want to make sure that your reports are both consistent, and complete. Follow the templates and guidelines Intrepid has provided. It’s difficult to parse through reports if they all look different, or when they don’t have enough details. Therefore, we need as many of us as possible to provide strong reports, so things get fixed. Just keep in mind that positive attitude, especially when reporting negative things. Bugs and exploits aren’t fun to fix, and it’s also not exactly stellar hearing about how something isn’t fun or is generally disliked. Make a developer’s day less dark by reporting things without being insulting.

Remember when we discussed that not all bugs are equal? Some of them are very small, and insignificant. These still need to be reported and fixed. Part of testing is dealing with repetitive and often tedious tasks, dealing with minor things that we don’t think are worthy of our time. Despite this we need to maintain the same level of diligence and attention to detail we would have with critical issues. While we aren’t paid QA people that are required to do things like launch the game 1000 times in a row and time each launch, we will often still have to grind through the muck and it’s important to not get annoyed with the process.

A final note, is nobody is a perfect tester. There isn’t anyone who can find every bug and exploit alone, always provides perfect feedback, and carries the load like a hero. We all need to contribute, and we all have our individual strengths and weaknesses. The idea is to use those to your advantage, and really leverage your personal talents towards the end goal. So, to that end you’ll want to find your niche. Consider what you enjoy doing, what you have a knack for, and what concerns you the most. Then focus on being the best tester for those things you can be. It could be one thing, or many. Either way, putting your best effort towards it will help ensure a quality product that you can be proud to have helped support.

Remember, we’re Making MMORPGs Great Again!

See you in Verra!
 
Last edited:
Viktor

Comments

Lex

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Wow! Very nice writing Viktor!
 

Zella

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I love how you view the testing process and embrace the mechanics vs getting frustrated with them. I think it’s important to remember why we are here and what our mission atm is in Verra! Lovely writing to top it. ^.^
 

Kleinature

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I always try to record my testing/playing footage so that I have a record of anything I may of encountered. It's the best way to backtrack and see where the bug happened and allows you to attempt to recreate it.

Great post Viktor!
 

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