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Updating the Test Server Experience

Hello! It's been a while since I wrote a blog entry, and I'd like to talk a bit about our testing server strategy.

tl;dr; We're moving Zog to a fake economy for the next year

Zog Deployment Review

Throughout development, we will use the 'Zog' Test Server to deploy changes before we publish to Live. We've had a lot of success with this strategy since Early Enrollment started, and we're going to continue to use it. It means we can see the code work on the same hardware as the live server and we can pull testers from the live community to help polish it.

If you've seen our updates, you know we work on a two week cadence. The first week after releasing new code to the Live server, we push a new build to Zog. The following week we push to Live. New code is being published to one server or another each week.

The Zog Test Server is a great place to see upcoming features before they hit the Live server. You can poke and prod and play around a bit without affecting your live characters. Please send us your feedback! It's a great chance to give that feedback early, and most of the time we can make a quick fix if one of our changes just isn't going to work as we want it to. For example we had a group of players help us test the upcoming deployment of the Campfires, Base Camps and Smallholdings and they really helped us narrow down some issues that needed work before Live deployment.

If you don't already have access to the Test Server, we've seeded a lot of invites to our early adopters, and we'll be giving them more invites to send out with this update. If you have those invites, we strongly encourage you to make them available to anyone who asks. We need your help to shape Pathfinder Online!

Long Term Plan

Pathfinder Online is a large sandbox game with a lot of systems that are hard to test without a real economy. In the long term, we'd like to have a test server that functions as a microcosm of the Live server. We'll make the commitment to the players that the test server will always be treated as a real server and they can spend their entire career there.

Once we have players invested in making Settlements on the Test Server, they can bootstrap the economy. All the economic engines behind escalations, resource gathering, crafting, building outposts, and building Settlements will start churning and cycling correctly - even if on a smaller scale than Live. All those systems will be tested in a way that wouldn't happen if we artificially prop up the economy for testing purposes.

But players won't move permanently to Zog until the Live server is fully populated and in fact gets a bit crowded. Until we get there, players are treating Zog as a typical test server, and that's perfectly understandable.

Current Plan

Our previous plan was to start Early Enrollment with the long term plan, and immediately make the test characters permanent. But that's not very realistic until we progress farther with development. So we're going to back away from that plan for now.

We'll start treating Zog as a typical MMO test server. We want to give players the ability to play for short periods of time and still get a reasonable amount of testing done. We will loosen up the economy and make sure players can get the items they need for testing. In order to test things like Smallholdings and Base Camps, we may give away items to tester characters for free.

The first significant change you'll see is that premium items like Player Packs and Smallholdings are no longer redeemable on the test server. We don't want anyone to accidentally redeem an item that they paid money for in a test environment. Instead, there is a new bin for Test Server Items that is visible on your Account Rewards page. (You will only see this section if you have Test Server Items.) If you have a test character created, you may see something show up here soon!

In the coming weeks, we will start working on other ways to enhance the economy of the Zog Test Server. One feature we'd like to add is NPC auctions. Since players won't be spending the time to craft all the items they need, we want to seed those items into the auction house. It will still be necessary to gather coin to purchase those items, but a full crafting economy won't be required for Zog.

We don't know yet all the features we need to help Zog function as a temporary test bed. We won't want to spend too much time on Zog-only features, but we do want to make it a reasonable environment for testing. Let us know in the forums if you ideas for more Zog features you'd like to see.

Later

We want to move back to a real economy on Zog some time in the future. In order to make the transition, we'll have to reboot Zog and wipe the server. As a result, that means the characters you make now on Zog won't live forever. We won't do the reboot for at least a year, so you'll have some time to enjoy Zog if you participate now. And we'll give out some free stuff to sweeten the deal.

But at some point, we will have the Great Zog Reboot. Then Zog will have the chance to become the beautiful microcosm it was intended to be. See you there!