The Anarchic Kingdom: Trying it Out
Wednesday, 16th June 2021
The DOS Spring Game Jam is pretty relaxed about timing. It's not a competitive jam, so participants are welcome to start development early, or even submit things that they have been working on for a while. I took advantage of this leniency by implementing The Anarchic Kingdom in the month before the jam, and then reserving the month of the jam for testing. This went mainly to plan.
Some testing of the text mode version was done during development. I sent such an alpha test version to my friend Phil Cooper, who was kind enough to come back with some suggestions for improvement at this stage.
When the graphical version was ready, I decided to try out a semi-public beta. While not offering it for download from the web page, I decided to offer it for download to members of my Discord server, while inviting anyone interested to join. The idea behind that was that I'd have a place to easily distribute test versions, and that we would all have a place to discuss bugs and potential improvements.
Along with that idea is the idea of weekly beta versions. Suggestions can be gathered and implemented during the week, and built into test releases that testers can expect at regular intervals. I couple that with a time-limiting mechanism that prevents a beta copy running after its alotted week. This ensures that I am receiving feedback on the latest version, and prevents beta test versions accidentally being released and distributed beyond my control.
The value of beta testing was revealed when, after a week or so of playing, I found a simplistic dominant strategy that gave me a runaway victory almost guaranteed every game. That meant I could no longer play the game for pleasure, and when that happens you know you have a problem that needs fixing. Once I made some adjustments to the game rules, I found that I could win most of the time, but that victory was never guaranteed and runaway victories were rare (I've had just one with the tweaked rules, and plenty of low-position finishes).
In the third week of beta testing, I found no new bugs or gameplay issues. So the game was released, as I'll discuss in next week's blog post.