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Open Alpha - Working hard for the muddies
Our Open Alpha
Our Open Alpha is the current MUD phase we're in. Before it went a closed alpha (very early on), a closed beta (last year) and several long phases of closed development. Our open alpha then is the phase where we feel ready to let people log in without our constant watchful supervision and shouted warnings that nothing works.
Bug free at last, eh?
Oh, god no. Entering our open alpha doesn't mean we don't have bugs - it doesn't even mean the 'core' game is 100% playable. What it means is that we've gone *as far as we realistically can* without getting more eyes on the game. Epitaph is now a relatively massive code-base, with huge amounts of unique, complicated code you won't find in any other MUD. It is simply beyond our abilities now as a development team to comprehensively test the game.
So, what should I be doing?
At this stage, you should be treating Epitaph as if it were a grown up game - there should be no part of the game that is accessible to you as a player that isn't supposed to be tested. There is nothing *in particular* that should be focused on, because at this stage we're looking to make everything work properly. The only thing we would ask is that you try out bits of the game that you might not try out otherwise - if you're not a quester, we'd appreciate you trying out quests anyway so that we can get a fully representative picture of what works and what doesn't, and what could be made easier to do.
Okay, right - but what should I be doing?
Okay, well - first priority should be bug and typo reporting. The 'bug' and 'typo' commands let you do that. The priority after that is polishing the user interface - helping us nail down clumsy syntax and gaps between what we expect you to do and what you have to do. Please bug report these issues too. After that, the next priority is ensuring we have comprehensive help available everywhere - there should be helpfiles for anything you need to do in the game, and if there aren't they should be considered bugs. Similarly to this, there should be verbose syntax available for every command, and every helpfile should give full command syntaxes (where appropriate). Any flaws in our helpfiles should be considered bugs.
What about my ideas? I have so much inside me to give!
We would love your ideas... we have a whole special idea system there to support them! Ideas on Epitaph go to our public system, and people get to vote them up or down, add comments and tag them for easier location. We tend to look at the top rated ideas preferentially when it comes time to implement one, because they represent, roughly, a snapshot of playerbase preferences. We don't guarantee they'll be implemented, but they're the ones we focus on.
I found a bug!
Great! Every bug you find is one less bug marring a potentially flawless playing experience for the future. But can I ask that you don't announce every bug you find on the various talker channels available? We know the game has bugs, that's what you're here for - but we need them recorded somewhere that we can find them later - it's fine to chat about bugs, but you will I hope forgive that we can't muster up the enthusiasm to be excited every time one gets pointed out on the talkers. I'm not going to pretend maintenance or bug-fixing is fun or enjoyable - it's just a thing that has to be done before we can do other fun things.
Is there anywhere I can go for gameplay advice?
Not really, not yet - we have a player wiki at http://epitaph.imaginary-realities.com/mw/index.php?title=Main_Page, but it is supposed to be a resource that players build. If you could do that as you go along, that would also be greatly appreciated. Our very own Grimrak has produced a map of the game (http://epitaph.imaginary-realities.com/grimrak/), but it hasn't been updated for a whle and as such it is not 100% accurate any more. It should however give you a reasonably good sense of where most things are.
So, once the game is bug fixed and typo free, is that it done?
Hell no. We have so many exciting plans for the future that it's actually a strain to take a step back and focus on maintenance. We need to do that, because the more code we have the more bugs we introduce into the game, and we've reached the point where we need to handle that before adding in new things. But this is just Epitaph 1.0 - future versions of Epitaph will have much to get excited about.
As part of the alpha testing phase, your characters should be considered disposable - at the end of the testing period, we will do a player wipe and all character states will be reset before we move into the next testing phase (an open beta) or into being open for reals (if there is no need for a beta).