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2010
Dec
12

Summary Of Latest Bingo Game Updates

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

A couple of weeks ago, I started keeping a list of all the items I still need to work on before the game launch. It makes it easier for me to keep track of my progress, as well as see at a glance all the issues/items that still need attention.

My “Done” list is getting long, so I thought it’s time to post it on the blog already. Some of the details I already forgot most likely, so this also serves as a refresher. I tend to go back to my old blog posts sometimes e.g. when I need to refresh my memory if a certain issue has already been worked on before.

Anyway, here are the changes since the last blog update:

  • Multiple simultaneous client log outs/disconnects were causing too many unnecessary chat player list updates, which in turn causes a slowdown in the processing of incoming packets (like a new bingo ball being called). One way to solve this was to increase the game’s frame rate (so the Flash bingo games can process more packets per second), but it’s not really an efficient solution. So instead, the bingo games now check for multiple player list packet updates, keeping and processing one packet only (the latest update), which avoids the slowdown completely.
  • I made an application before to aid in stress testing, which has been very useful in detecting potential issues like the one above. However, it was throwing some unexpected errors. I am still unsure why the error was happening in the first place, but it is now being handled properly such that it doesn’t abruptly terminate the application.
  • Additional safety checks for incoming chat messages, since an empty message may potentially break things (technically this shouldn’t happen if messaging specs are properly followed, so this is just a safeguard).
  • If a player is in your ignore list, you are now allowed to add him as friend (removing him from your ignore list automatically). The reverse is also allowed. This removes one extra step for the said situations.
  • Duplicate player names were appearing in the chat’s player list. When logging in normally via the browser, this shouldn’t really happen. However, during stress testing (which skips the sign in scripts), the duplicate names issue pops up once in awhile, so I made additional tests for safety.
  • Avoid overlapping sounds when the player is still allowed to buy, and the game is already in progress (i.e. balls are being called).
  • Removing players from your friends or ignore list was not immediately updating the icon chat display beside the player names. The visual update now happens instantly, instead of waiting for a new player list packet.
  • In 90-ball bingo, fixed a bug that announces the pattern being played more than once (I think it was happening for each call, after the first pattern was finished).
  • When a player has a winning bingo card, and he scrolls the card list, there was a mix up and the proper winning card may no longer be highlighted (it may actually highlight a non-winning card sometimes).
  • Flash game cache version system has been finalized and has been more thoroughly tested.
  • If the filenames of the Flash bingo games change, shared object variables are now kept properly, previously it was being erased and reset to defaults. This is important if the current Flash game cache version system I incorporated will be kept, since filenames are bound to be changed whenever there are updates to the Flash bingo games.
  • For Spin Bingo, XP (Experience Points) winner computations for 1st/2nd placers have been changed. I think I might still do some changes with XP allotments overall in all the bingo games.
  • Help pages have been updated to synchronize it with the XP changes, since some old features were already dropped (e.g. player privileges being dependent on XP now, instead of the number of games).
  • The stress testing application has been improved so it now uses actual multiple accounts generating proper individual game stats, which is needed to generate test data for the best players lists as well.
  • Minimum balance checks have been changed/corrected, the minimum is now 25 points, equivalent to 1 Spin Bingo game. If your game point balance falls below the minimum, the game will give you more free game points automatically (ain’t that nice?) 😉
  • Re-check the proper ApplicationDomain to use in the Flash bingo games. This affects the way duplicate objects are loaded. I am still not 100% sure I am using the right one, but it is in my “Done” list, so I’ve probably done enough tests in that area already, for me to keep whatever the current setting is.
  • Some configuration variables were needed to be set first before the buy event, otherwise some things don’t work as planned.
  • The Flash bingo games now show the disconnection error, even if it happens during the game intermission. Previously, it was only being caught when it happens while a game is in progress.
  • Related to above, better clean-up routines have been added in case of disconnections (all cases).
  • Flash policy server has been re-tested to make sure it still works, since it may have been affected by all the game server changes.
  • Game resumes have been broken due to some recent game changes. All the Flash bingo games have been re-tested and corrected for any related issue.

Well, that’s quite a long list! That’s because I haven’t posted an update for like 2 months now. So far, I only have 9 remaining items in my to-do list, although the list still gets bigger from time to time when I encounter new issues. Once my list is cleared, game launch will be next.

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2010
Dec
08

Server Migration

Categories: Site Updates

I am in the process of migrating the HB site to a new host, which is being done in stages. For the time being, since the BingoGems site is still new, it is still being hosted on the same dedicated servers as HB. So the BingoGems site is one of the things being migrated to the new servers.

The migration has generally been hassle-free so far. Since you are now able to read this post, it means the migration of the entire BingoGems site has now been completed.

This server migration has also been done in preparation for the launch of the BingoGems games. I haven’t posted an update for a long time now, but progress is still being made (though not as fast as I wanted it to be), and I am now closer than ever to the eventual completion of the bingo games.

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2010
Sep
02

XP and Player Levels

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

There were some major changes in the last few weeks. In a previous post, I have posted about the concept of player levels. Basically, as you gain more XP (Experience Points), your game or player level also increases. I was not supposed to implement this until after the games have been launched, but after some serious thought, I figured it is such a major feature that it better be implemented right from the start.

Since this is a free bingo site, and players are basically just playing for points (or virtual currency), there’s got to be something else worth coming back to for players to continue playing. The player avatars will be there to spend points on, and in terms of skill progression, XP does the job.

I see player levels as easier-to-achieve quick goals. Instead of just amassing countless XP for every game, your player level increases after accumulating a certain amount of XP, which provides short bursts of player satisfaction. Each higher level also requires more XP. I am not very familiar as to how other games are doing it, but I am seeing more games on Facebook now doing this as well, so it must be a good thing.

The difficult part right now is how to present this to the player in an easy-to-understand manner, otherwise it can just complicate things. Currently, a player has  different XP and levels per bingo game, which I think is the proper thing to do. However, I also needed a site-wide player level, where benefits like number of usable smileys will be based. This is where I am having some difficult considerations right now, as I am avoiding having to present 2 different player levels.

Anyway, the basic code foundations have been wrapped up. All the Flash bingo game layouts have been re-organized to make room for these changes. Some player info (points, name, XP) have been moved from the chat area into the game area. Each bingo game now has a player stats area, consistently placed at the top of each bingo game display. This player stats bar also shows during game intermissions, so the intermission screen has also been reorganized a bit. This stats bar also solves the problem of not being able to see player stats when the player has just signed-up, since the full chat area only becomes visible after registration has been confirmed.

XP accumulation has also been changed. Previously, you only get XP if you win the game or as a bonus for playing consecutive games. Now, even non-winners can gain XP. For Spin-Bingo this is based on player scores. For the other bingo games, it is based on card to-go averages. This still needs some fine-tuning, but the core functions are all working now. The bingo games also display the required number of XP before leveling up. During game intermissions, all the players are now listed since everyone is gaining XP.

There has been a lot of changes in the bingo game servers, as well as the website codes, but I think it’s all worth it. Players don’t like seeing major changes, so it’s better to implement this player level concept now rather now introduce it later.

I could not recall all the other recent changes, but here are the other updates in my notes:

  • Fixed a screen name bug
  • Some java server classes (bingo game winners related) have been removed since the recent changes required a different implementation (which is also now easier to manage)
  • Fixed some XP bugs (when showing Options screen, and upon initial purchase of cards)
  • Privacy settings in the profile (showing of birthday/age) now working properly
  • Game status/age display in the player profile now defaults to Friends-only
  • Jackpot amount in the individual bingo games is now only shown after the player has purchased bingo cards (I am hoping that this will further discourage the so-called jackpot jumpers, or at least make it a bit more difficult for them)
  • Fixed a bug in the scrolling message bar, where some messages will overlap depending on some events (this has been a long-standing issue but it’s only now that I was able to fully replicate the problem and therefore make a suitable solution)
  • Spin Bingo help icons are now better placed, overall the Spin Bingo layout is now better and cleaner
  • Card costs (in the codes) can now vary, so a Spin Bingo game which requires 4 cards only can now cost a bit more
  • Fixed some stats bugs when viewing a player’s profile (e.g. defaults to another game even if another one is selected)
  • XP is now kept track individually on a per-game basis, this also required some table reorganizations in the database (e.g. there are now 2 transaction tables, one for balances and a new one for XP updates)

Overall, I think I have been productive last month. I know it could have been a lot better, but at least there have been significant progress.

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