BZ - What's the future for it?

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Pesky_UK
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BZ - What's the future for it?

Post by Pesky_UK »

I don't think anyone can deny that it's dying. Zero players online is the norm nowadays or if there is anyone there they soon disappear.

Isn't it about time to let either let BZ die a dignified death or move away from concentrating on desktop versions and acknowledge that people are using phones and tablets nowadays to consume and play.

The devs do a great job but they're flogging a dead horse.

IMO put less effort into the desktop versions and concentrate more on mobile first. It's the only way it will survive. Bluetooth keyboards, mice and game controllers are all connectable to mobile devices so the old "how to play it" argument has gone.

Thoughts?
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Zehra
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Re: BZ - What's the future for it?

Post by Zehra »

While this is true to a major extent and it is true that mobile devices are seen as the future...

My own thoughts vary greatly on the matter itself, mostly with regards to overall goal and implementation of that goal. (Yes, previous is non-specific, but is better outlined below as the following questions, observations and calculations.)

Is it mainly another game client in an attempt to increase activity?
If so, then I see it faces multiple issues regarding the following:
  • Introduces a new client with less than already observed behaviour, which may introduce more client specific behaviour then already had. (This may be verified in bugs ranging from teleporter access/crossing on mesh objects, design changes within the game client [remember full screen radar debate in 2.0.x and the more current changes to radar in 2.4.x], varied operating system behaviour.)
  • Introduces a new desktop/laptop vs mobile device dynamic of controversy.
  • Authentication failures on mobile devices [... as 2.4.x. would not be able to support it well, especially on mobile data, which seems to be the more common use case].
Is it mainly meant to be a bz-inspired game for mobile?
Issues and problems which would need to be addressed:
  • Efforts on two fronts, likely unsustainable in the long run, unless multiple additional developers can contribute on efforts. (Frequently and repeatedly in history, many of the last ditch efforts/hopes end up in failure, especially when efforts are split on multiple projects.)
  • Previously a similar effort attempted, but no major results. (See Nintendo effort.)
  • Requires a clever method of having two games support each other. (Possible and viable, but requires extremely high probability of success, as failure results in wasted efforts and much disappointment.)
  • Participation of members in "both" games. (It mainly would pull members from the mobile game, if the mobile game is successful, otherwise it simply is a very niche game of few people being interested and fewer playing it. [How many people in BZ would be interested in a mobile game inspired by BZ and how many of those would play it?].)
--

What is a much more viable option, but still is non-ideal from any perspective, is mobile support backing the main game, as in you'd be able to schedule/arrange matches, in game meet-ups, see friends online..etc from mobile.

In this way, you end up with something not extremely difficult to do, but also does not subtract players from the current game.

Later work it into where watching/viewing games is possible, after having bzadmin on mobile for a time. Use the feedback provided in attempts to design a client which is playable as a subset of BZ, but being designed specifically for it in terms of maps and game controls/feedback.

Either way, you can still "prototype" new concepts into this framework, but while costly in effort, you still do not lose too much, even though there is more efficient means, it is a bit stable.

At least that would be my assumption to some extent.

But the key component is to have actual support and actual users involved in the testing and development of a private venture, so as not to tie up developer resources and time into a project without promise of return. The other component, is not to let feedback become design by committee, otherwise it is bound to fail.

-Zehra
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Re: BZ - What's the future for it?

Post by macsforme »

I worked on a mobile port of BZFlag about five years ago, and probably had it at least halfway done (graphics were completely done, and touch controls were partially done). Someone else also tried to do it before me, and then a third person was working on it after me. In my case, I waited a year for Tim Riker to answer whether he would allow a license that is compatible with Apple's app store. As you can imagine, the effort lost most of its momentum during that time.

viewtopic.php?t=19188

As far as development obstacles go, I've observed two things. First, developers seem to get stuck in between doing work in our current code (which has severe design problems, has not aged well, and is frustrating to work with) and just re-writing entire parts of it (introducing uncertainty/unknowns, and still requiring glue to parts of the old code). Secondly, there are significantly different visions among the developers and other stakeholders about the direction that refactored or re-written functionality should go. I don't fully understand it, nor am I fully settled on what the solution(s) would be.
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Re: BZ - What's the future for it?

Post by SpringTank »

macsforme wrote: Thu Oct 28, 2021 2:55 am I worked on a mobile port of BZFlag about five years ago, and probably had it at least halfway done (graphics were completely done, and touch controls were partially done). Someone else also tried to do it before me, and then a third person was working on it after me. In my case, I waited a year for Tim Riker to answer whether he would allow a license that is compatible with Apple's app store. As you can imagine, the effort lost most of its momentum during that time.

viewtopic.php?t=19188

As far as development obstacles go, I've observed two things. First, developers seem to get stuck in between doing work in our current code (which has severe design problems, has not aged well, and is frustrating to work with) and just re-writing entire parts of it (introducing uncertainty/unknowns, and still requiring glue to parts of the old code). Secondly, there are significantly different visions among the developers and other stakeholders about the direction that refactored or re-written functionality should go. I don't fully understand it, nor am I fully settled on what the solution(s) would be.
What is Riker's vision of the game? If he isn't doing any active development or overseeing/managing development then what's the point of him being the maintainer? Is he just sitting on it for resume credit?

There are a few features I can think of off the top of my head that would breath some new life into this game.

First, and this is just one example, more sounds. Sound design is important for building an atmosphere and user feedback in game. Example: I made a goomba stomp plugin and am using the supposedly broken remote sounds on my server to play a goomba stomp sound on a successful stomp. It is such as satisfying feeling when you land one and you hear that sound! Imagine general hit sounds that can be disabled/changed client side? A little 'dink' or bell sound on each successful kill.

Unfortunately you have to manually download the sound and put it in your data directory because bzflag doesn't use the cache for sounds. I can make it download the sound into the cache by listing it in the map file the same way images are, but it still doesn't look in the cache for sounds. I managed to fix this by adding a few lines to BzfMedia.cxx that tells bzflag to look in the cache. https://pastebin.com/scjY3mLR It works on one of my linux builds so far. Maybe it could be added to 2.4.23 ???

As for the clients crashing due to custom sounds; I haven't had any problems with it myself, and I haven't heard any complaints on my server nor have I seen anyone go NR but I know that doesn't tell me much. So I speculate the crash may have been caused by the client not being able to find the sound it's looking for or trying to download it to ./data and write permissions getting in the way. I can't find where in the code that custom sounds even downloads anything, sooo I'm not even sure why that would be a problem in the first place.

Anyhow, that's just one example. Another would be some kind of moveable doors for multi-staged maps. Something really simple.

Maybe with each version, there should be concentrated effort on one single major feature with bug fixes in between and that's it. No feature creep between versions. Just vote on one major feature or rework and concentrate on it. Don't halfass a bunch of stuff. Wholeass one thing at a time.
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Re: BZ - What's the future for it?

Post by SpringTank »

I would like to see this game's development continue on. I love the game play, the community, the friends made along the way. Stop this trolling "it's a dying game just let it die, etc. etc." Sometimes these things go through rough patches. People call TF2 a dying game all the time, especially when Overwatch came out. Yet it remains in the top 10 most played games on steam even after... 12 years!?? Maybe more. It's all a blur... It's almost as if there was an entity pushing the 'dying game' narrative to try and force the game into a hole. IDK I'm going off on a rant now. Anyways...

It's got a lot of potential for regrowth, and I'm learning how it's code is structured. I can't promise anything. I will say that the main thing this game lacks is SOLID LEADERSHIP IN DEVELOPMENT. Something we all already know... Maybe if I keep poking the bear Mr. Riker will respond. lol
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Re: BZ - What's the future for it?

Post by Zehra »

I realize I actually never really answered the question.

Before anyone even asks, I'll bring up a list of similar threads.
My thoughts are that BZ has almost a form of player activity cycles... extreme high and lows of activity... These are not seasonal cycles (summer time increases of activity), nor are they daily up and downs. They happen every 1-3 years or so and activity virtually grinds to a halt at times... but it resumes as normal after a while. We tend to get a thread or two of "BZFlag is dying" and "The end of BZFlag era is here" during those times too, but after activity resumes, these threads are quickly forgotten and everything continues as normal.

Now this is going to sound harsh and perhaps offensive to some... I honestly see simply a repeat of history as far as I can tell. No lessons were learned and the cycle continues... except there is one factor in that cycle.. which nobody points out, is activity returns to around 90% of what it was.

From basic observations, we see very late in 2013, the following thread: Why are there only like 30 people playing BZFLAG at one time
Now I said cycles of 1-3 years or so, so to be generous, let's say 2014 starts with 30 players, in 2017 it's 27 players, in 2020, it's 24 players...
This is with the cycle length of 3 years, but if we use 2.5 years, in 2019 we have 24 players, and in mid 2021 we have 22 players.
I think the cycles are getting shorter as time goes along, but the bigger issue is eventually that activity will not be able to sustain itself in the long run, as nobody waits an hour for people to show up.

As for why, the game itself seems to be lacking in what is fun and enjoyable. This is not to say BZFlag is not fun, but there is a lot which makes it difficult to be fun game for new people.(Major skill gaps, limited options, counter intuitive controls..etc)

The other problem is the expectation for a "miracle" in the community, as if suddenly changing leadership to a more active participant(s) will suddenly turn things around, but at the same time the current leadership leads to a slow decline (for now). By leadership, it's in reference to the current copyright holder/maintainer in terms of community input and interest, as he's maybe here, but we haven't heard anything for quite a while in which direction BZ will head in terms of design decisions and goals. (Even the acknowledgement of trusting the developers decisions for the path 2.5. will take, would address some of the concerns the community may have.)

The other thing is a lot of discouragement exists in the atmosphere overall, as a lot of (promising) efforts which should have more interest and support, do not see such intentions, but instead a lot of hope is placed on so called "miracle" efforts of "what if x project becomes successor to bz", "we need x to happen to save BZ" and the dreams of "what if we have bz on mobile/Nintendo/xbox", "a massive rewrite of BZ from scratch". It's almost as if there is the expectation that BZ will be continued to be updated/developed, but at the same time a "miracle" should replace it.

The other problem is a bit of a question of if we're placing efforts and time on "sunk cost" and if any efforts on the current codebase are a "Concorde fallacy", but at the same time, is starting a codebase from scratch going to solve the majority of the current problems or is it going to introduce more problems in addition to the current ones, while perhaps taking more effort.

Until issues are actually addressed, nothing is being solved by the current efforts.
So my opinion is we're in a slow decline till we reach the point of no return, if things remain as is.

-Zehra
Those who are critical of me, I'll likely be the same of them. ~Zehra
The decisions we make are the ones we look forward too and the ones we regret. ~Zehra
There's a difference between knowing my name and knowing me, one shows respect to my name and the other is to who I am. ~Zehra

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