War of Words in now onto peer review! If you are an XNA creator’s club member, please consider reviewing the game.
Optimization is one of those programming tasks that usually isn’t necessary but everybody thinks you have to do it. A general rule of thumb is to try to keep software less complex by not introducing loads of difficult to understand optimization routines. War of Words has a central algorithm for finding a word from a given set of random letters. This algorithm represents the bulk of the AI “brain”.
A while back, I ran War of Words through the XBox CLR Profiler tool to get a look at the memory use and garbage collection. I found that the garbage collector runs a lot – it seems like it runs every 30 frames sometimes. But, I never noticed any performance issues. The game runs smoother at or around 60 fps without a hitch. Occasionally there’s a “hiccup” but that is understandable given the profiler’s output.
After making several changes based on peer feedback, War of Words is back in playtest! If you’re an XNA Creator’s Club member go and give it a try!
Also, here’s some new screenshots showing some of the changes:
War of Words has been in playtest for one week and I’ve gotten several pieces of good feedback. I’ve made the following changes in response to this feedback:
- Font readability was a small issue with certain things. I’ve increased the size of some of the fonts where I could. I also switched to a different and hopefully more readable font on the critical menus. The instructions have been increased in size by 30%.
- There’s a few places where on-screen button hints appear. These help you remember button presses.
- Backspace and clear word have been swapped in the control scheme (B performs a backspace while LB clears the word).
- The map has a title.
- The letter blocks have been completely redesigned for more readability. They looked very red in previous releases and now they look more like wood.
- There’s some basic help when you first start the game on the map.
- Sign out of profile could crash the game in certain circumstances, and this was fixed (this was the only crash bug found).
- Several people reported that the game was too difficult. In response, I have made some of the first few encounters easier by reducing hit points and increasing other attack stats. I also scaled back enemy stats and “dumbed down” their AIs a little. It should be much easier to beat the first two enemies now. Getting up to level 10 should be easier too.
- It was also reported that battles took too long. They’ve been implicitly shortened by the actions taken in the previous bullet point.
I hope to get another week of playtest in. If a crash bug is found, I will fix it and re-release. The idea is that the game will be crash free going into peer review so that the review process is not compromised.
On a positive note, testers were in agreement that they enjoyed the game, which is a good sign! I hope that I have crafted a game that people will enjoy. I just want to be sure that it is accessible to the first-time player. It can be hard to judge how easy or hard a game is that you create because you are already an expert at it.
War of Words is now in playtest on the XNA Creator’s Club website! If you have a premium membership account, please consider playtesting the game and providing any feedback that you can. The game is completed and I’m mostly looking for defects that would cause the game to fail review.
War of Words now has a page on Facebook! Become a fan today. There’s a possibility that contests might be in the works in the future where free copies of the game could be given out. It could also serve a purpose in the future where tips and other info can be swapped by different players.
Game Testing Update: The private beta is over. The game will be placed on the XNA Creator’s Club playtest area sometime in the next couple of days. If you have a creator’s club account, please consider playtesting the game. An announcement will be posted here when the game is available in playtest. I’m very excited to see this game finally getting closer to release!