2017 State of Play

Hi everyone,

I thought that I would give a bit of a “Where the hell are we at?” update to mark the turning of the year. I’ll reflect a bit on the journey so far and talk about what’s next.

Journey So Far

2017 is 8 years since I got the idea of making the FutureMUD engine, and 5 years since the C# rewrite. It’s also the 3rd year of work on LabMUD and we’re nearly approaching 2 years since we announced we were opening LabMUD and then failed to do so.

It’s probably fair to say that we disappointed a lot of people along the way; it has been a very long time. The reality is FutureMUD is still a one man team, as it has been since 2012. I’m not a professional software engineer and I have proven to be really bad at estimating the time it takes to complete coding tasks, although the main issue is time commitment to the project.

One of the big time sinks has been becoming a father, something I wouldn’t change for the world. However having a baby (now toddler) around the house does not make for a very peaceful environment. I probably could have demanded space, time and solitude to work on FutureMUD but that wouldn’t make me a very good husband or father.

I’m also now 30 years old, and at the real prime time of my career – by day I am a District Engineer who looks after around 1500km/950miles of mainline railway track. I recently got an internal promotion as well. A lot of this has meant working longer hours, travel, networking, attending functions and such in what would otherwise be my free time.

Why does this matter? Well, from time to time people have floated ideas like “Why don’t you do kickstarter/patreon and get funding to work on the engine full time?”. The answer is y’all couldn’t afford me. RPI MUDs are pretty niche, and I have a history of over-promising and under-delivering. I couldn’t justify taking time off my job that pays better than $75 USD an hour (seriously kids, study STEM subjects…) for the likely starving artist or worse level of funding I’d get.

Nonetheless I do still find time to work on it all. Less than I’d like, but it has come a long way. According to my stats on Git, since May 2015 I have made 600 commits to Git, changing 290,000 lines of code – although the codebase itself is 95,000 lines (many of those lines will have been changed multiple times along the way, hence the large number).

Where are we now?

The codebase as it stands now is actually further along than what I had said I wanted to wait for when we delayed launch in May 2015; it’s probably more fully featured than SOI was when it launched in 2003 and almost certainly more fully featured than Atonement Alpha was. The only thing on my “List of Excuses not to launch List” that isn’t done is probably crafting, and that’s like 50% done.

In terms of building, LabMUD is mostly done for its phase 1 objectives. There is only one core area of building that needs to be worked on and it’s one of the “Gameplay Systems” that we wanted to launch with, one of the “Something to do to give people things to struggle with and fight over” type areas of content. It’s not far from being done either, just needs some solid time spent on it.

As most of you have stopped paying attention to LabMUD in the intervening time and I probably won’t even get all of you back for launch, a lot of the pressure to just get it open has been lifted. I’m sort of focusing a bit more on releasing a game that will be a little more on the “finished” side and a little less on the “test for the devs” side. At least, finished in the sense that it’s stable and reasonably feature complete. More of a beta than an alpha.

What’s the plan?

I’m targeting an Easter release at the moment. I’ll have crafting done by then, it’s the only big coded system that needs finishing (mob AI could probably use a bit of work, but I’d open without it). When I am ready to go, this time it’s for real, for better or for worse. This gives me a few months to do what I need to do, continue to fix bugs, and then get going.

Once we’re open, we’ll stay open and fixes will come in incrementally as well as new content. I’m hoping 2017 is the big year.

And thank you to those few diehards who’ve kept up with the project and have really driven the testing over the last year. You know who you are.