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2011
Aug
11

BingoGems… Live!

Categories: Site Updates

Four long years. That’s how long it took me to finally launch the games on this site. While I am proud of the things I have accomplished, it’s disappointing how long it took to finish this project (and no, it’s not even 100% finished yet).

In comparison, HB took just 2-3 months of coding time… mostly sleepless nights as I was in a hurry to launch a site then. When HB was launched in 2004, there was only one game available (75-ball bingo), and a lot of things were lacking or weren’t working properly. The next few months were spent fixing things as I encountered it. It was a very successful project though (by my own standards), surpassing all my expectations.

It took another year before Spin Bingo was even introduced on the site. Then another 6-7 months before I added 90-ball bingo. (NOTE: I wasn’t even aware of these time frames until today, after I re-read some parts of my blog on HB). So all in all, it took me like a year and a half to get the HB site on a more stable and complete state, with 3 bingo games available.

I officially started working on BingoGems in July 2007. It’s not until today, August 2011, that I am even opening the games to the public. Sure, I now have 4 bingo games immediately available upon launch, which may help justify the 4-year development time. However, if you read my previous blog entries, there has been several instances when I thought I am so close on releasing, then have to push it back again and again. Over those 4 years, there were a lot of distractions, so I have not really been able to work on the site continuously. Yes I have some regrets, because I know I could have finished things A LOT sooner if I just sat down and did more actual work, but I didn’t.

Anyway, that’s all in the past now. What’s important is I am finally making a major milestone today, by actually opening the games to the public already!

The next few weeks will be spent fixing any issue that I will encounter as more people play on the site. Looking forward, I will now have the time to work on the avatar system. I had to delay this feature, so that it doesn’t push the launch date any further. It’s something that I can introduce to the system later, without affecting the current game setup. Then I will also make better game skins, as the current ones are rather plain looking (though very decent).

So to wrap things up… welcome to BingoGems!!! If you are looking for FREE bingo games to play online, you’ve come to the right place!

Happy bingo gaming!

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2011
Aug
10

Best Players Lists

Categories: Bingo Game Server, Flash Bingo Games, Site Updates

I was shooting for an August 1st launch date, and I was actually on track, however as I have mentioned in the last post I was concerned about some potential speed issues regarding best player lists. The best way to test this is by doing actual profiling, however since there are still no large volume of existing data, I have to make some codes to create hundreds of thousands of test data. This puts the test data on par with HB’s current database size, if not even larger.

And my hunch was right. The tables and codes just aren’t fast enough. This is because I opted to implement real-time display of best player lists. This means as soon as a game is over, you can immediately see the stats updated from any page, or within the Flash bingo games. In contrast, HB updates these same stats once every 24 hours only.

So I decided to just delay the launch date (again), so I can work on optimizing this problem area. This involves making use of secondary tables and further optimizing current table indices and queries, in order to speed up read access of the affected tables. Unfortunately, this required code changes in all areas (web site, bingo game servers, Flash bingo games), hence it took me a couple of days to wrap up everything including a new set of necessary tests.

It took a lot of work, but I am more at ease now knowing that even a few years from now, the current setup can still reliably handle a larger volume of players and data. Real-time reporting of stats is still fully supported, which is really what I wanted from the start.

There were also some other changes/updates in other areas:

  • Fixed a bug that doesn’t parse the bingo room name properly (happens on IE browsers only).
  • Fixed a Flash alignment bug which may disrupt the display (happens on IE 9 only). Unfortunately, this looks like a known unfixed bug on IE 9 itself, so I’ve only done a possible workaround to make the display bug less obvious.
  • There are times when the chat history is being messed up. I think it happens when the chat text is being pruned. I haven’t been able to reproduce the bug yet. I’ve done some potential fixes, but it’s possible this issue may reappear in the future.
  • Fixed bug where the initial value of the minimum jackpot amount was not being properly set.
  • Changed order of pot/jackpot displays.

All the changes (in all areas) are now active. Just doing some more tests right now.

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2011
Jul
29

Production Server Game Testing

Categories: Bingo Game Server, Flash Bingo Games, Site Updates

Finally nearing completion… I am now doing game tests on the production servers. There were some glitches that I encountered, but nothing major that’s not easily fixed.

Here are some final changes/improvements that were made during the initial game tests on the production servers:

  • Adjusted Spin Bingo game timers, as I feel that even new players don’t really need more than 4 minutes to get the hang of the game.
  • Possible fix for another thread-related issue, which may explain a rare error that I recently encountered while using the stress test application. The error was not in the game server, so hopefully this isn’t a critical issue.
  • Additional checks in the bingo game servers to prevent multiple games from being played. There is already an existing check from the web pages, so this may seem redundant. It’s done for security purposes, and it also fixes an issue with the stress test application that prevents the game server from recording log outs properly.
  • Some changes in the stress test application so it can connect outside the local environment.
  • Fixed several e-mail issues. I just realized that some pages don’t even send out e-mails yet, so those have been updated. Also, there were some issues with the e-mail filter and calls to the function that prevented it from actually sending e-mails.
  • Ads were not showing in the production servers. I already encountered this issue during local testing. Apparently, it was another Flash security issue, so the previous local server fix I made wasn’t even necessary.
  • Minor visual changes to the web site’s top area graphics. Also changed the text from “Home” to “Games”, as I find that more appropriate.
  • Minor improvements to the policy server. Removed some unnecessary codes, also fixed a counting bug that doesn’t really affect the stats but makes it a bit inaccurate.
  • Optimized some frequently accessed tables (best players and player status related), updated corresponding web pages and game server codes. I have just seriously considered using secondary tables for some player stats. This will kinda duplicate some existing data, but will potentially make reads/writes faster since fewer records will be involved. However, I decided to look into this in more detail later, as lots of areas will be affected. Hopefully, the current setup is good enough.

I am still doing a couple more tests, covering as much area as possible. The bingo game servers are actually actively running now, and the web site now allows games to be played (but this is currently limited to my account). When the tests are over, all I need to do is reset the entire database, then open the games to the public.

So far, everything is looking better. If I don’t encounter any major issue this weekend, I can (finally!!) look forward to a game launch next week. Let’s hope for the best!

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