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All posts created by Bob

Edited the original post to reflect that a Final Candidate was deployed to the Test Server on Friday, October 23. We're still planning on deploying to Live on Tuesday, October 27, during Daily Maintenance, assuming all goes well in final testing. So far testing is going well, but there are still a lot more changes to be double-checked on Monday before we make a final decision on that.
But where is the Alchemist holding?

Just the structures for now. Will work on a holding and an adventurer's cottage for a future update.
These are the Preliminary Release Notes for Open Enrollment v2.3. We deployed a Final Candidate for OE 2.3 to the Test Server on Friday, October 23 and plan to deploy that build to Live during Daily Maintenance on Tuesday, October 27, assuming it performs well during final testing.

What Is In This Release

This release focuses on adding new structures to support Combat Alchemists and adding a rebalanced Seekers from the Citadel escalation to the standard rotation. Multiple other improvements were also made to various systems in order to keep steadily improving the overall player experience.

Full Release Notes

  • New structures are available to provide training for Combat Alchemists: Research Center, Combat Alchemist School and Bombing Range. Recipes for these structures drop as loot and there are new default recipes for the required Combat Alchemist Codexes and Codex collections as well.
  • The Visiting Combat Alchemist Trainers at the Keeps in player settlements had their Trainer Levels dropped by one. These levels will continue to drop over future updates and soon those trainers will be removed altogether.

  • Seekers from the Citadel is now part of the standard escalation rotation, and was rebalanced to get through the earlier phases more quickly, to drop more level-appropriate loot in each phase, and for the final boss to provide a more interesting combat challenge.
  • Typo fixed in one of the phase descriptions for Nature’s Wrath.

  • Elite Crusader Slayer achievement description no longer incorrectly says it can’t be earned.

Edit 1: Final Candidate was deployed to the Test Server on Friday, October 23.
Over the last week, we managed to set things up so that I can get Int/Chitterwood started up in the cloud myself, then run the client on my computer and get into the game, allowing me to start testing a wider variety of systems. Much of the game works just fine (gathering resources, talking to trainers, accessing vaults, starting up escalations), but other things don't (can't open crafting doors, enemies aren't spawning, GM commands can't find characters on other hexes). The next trick is to start figuring out what's causing those issues, and to do that we're first working on accessing the cloud's version of the game logs.

In other news, we're just about ready to start making release candidates for the next update, adding the Combat Alchemist structures and a few other things. I'll post some preliminary release notes in a day or two, and with a little luck we may have something up on Zog later this week or early next week.
On Saturday, October 10 (Pacific), Daily Maintenance will run about 5 hours (from roughly 9 AM to 2 PM Pacific) instead of the usual 30-45 minutes. Our colocation company is going to be doing some work on their electrical system in order to prevent future power outages and needs to turn off all power to our server cabinet during that time. Fortunately they're not starting until well after everything will have shut down normally and all the standard Daily Maintenance tasks will have completed, but we're going to block the servers from starting back up automatically so they won't be taken down unexpectedly when the power is turned off. As we get closer to losing power, we'll also shut down the website and other services so everything shuts down as cleanly as possible. Once power is fully restored, we'll start everything back up.

Sorry for the hassle, particularly for those of you who regularly play around that time, but hopefully this will mean an end to those unexpected power outages.

Getting right to the big news first, here's a screenshot of the first character to enter a version of Pathfinder Online with all of the game servers running in the cloud:

(Check out the screenshot on the blog post.)

Reaching this milestone is a huge step toward completing our cloud transition, so we thought this would be a good time to give you all a little more detail on how we're organizing the cloud effort, our progress so far, and what work remains to be done. Though we're not as far along as we'd hoped at this point, having run into a lot of complications along the way, we've made a great deal of progress and learned a lot of things that should prove helpful as we work through the remaining tasks and any additional complications that pop up.

To provide some context, we're dividing the cloud work into four big stages, each based on the four different server environments we move all new builds and content through as they go from initial development to final release. Those environments are known colloquially as Big Green Button, Chitterwood, Zog/Test and Barrow/Live. The new versions are being given the more helpfully descriptive (yet sadly mundane) names Dev (Development), Int (Internal), Stag (Staging) and Prod (Production), though we'll probably tend to use the original names interchangeably. Old habits die hard.

Dev is the minimum environment we need to run the game at all, and was previously called Big Green Button because you press a big green button on the helper app to start the servers up (technically, only the designers and artists use the helper app, programmers just use scripts, as the ancient coding gods intended). For Dev, the game's main applications and data are running on local machines instead of remote servers, with just enough server architecture (like database applications) running in the cloud to let everything talk to each other. This is helpful when developing new code and content because each developer can be running their own build and doesn't need to keep everything in sync with everyone else until they're ready to commit their changes. It was also a useful first step in moving to the cloud because we could focus on just getting those limited server functions working while we were getting accustomed to dealing with the cloud. Best not to tackle too many things at once. Even with that limited scope of work, Dev took a long time to pull together, but we got it working a few months ago and rolled quickly on to Int.

Int (Internal/Chitterwood) is the first environment where all the servers are running in the cloud, letting all the developers connect their clients to the same game world, and this is what we just got a rough version of working and took that screenshot in. So far we've been able to get all the game servers running, log in a character, and run around a bit. Right now Cole's the only one set up to run the servers and log in, so the next step is getting one of my machines set up so I can start testing a wider range of in-game activities, like running through multiple hexes, fighting escalations, crafting items, and all the other things players/settlements/companies can do. We expect most of them to run pretty much as they do on the current Chitterwood, but it's always possible we'll find a few surprises during testing.

Once we finish polishing Int up, it will essentially be a complete version of the game, just running a very small part of the map and with very minimal expectations for ease-of-use or stability. A few things will remain turned off, like Daily Maintenance and auto-billing, but the main systems will all be there for initial testing.

Getting to this first rough version of Int required climbing a steep learning curve, with Cole writing over a megabyte of notes on the way to adding DevOps to his ever-growing pile of developer hats. Meanwhile, I had to spend a lot of time crawling through billing spreadsheets and pricing documentation, since it turns out cloud work involves some accounting challenges on top of all the technical challenges. Fortunately, everything we've learned so far reinforces that we'll ultimately get everything running in the cloud, and seeing characters in a game world that's running completely in the cloud is one of the biggest proof-of-concept milestones toward that goal.

However, we did cut a lot of corners to get this rough version of Int working, so there's still a lot of cleanup work to do making everything stable and performant enough for the next stage, Stag (Staging/Zog/Test). That's when we'll be able to run a larger world and things will be dependable enough to start letting all you players take a look at it. To get there, we need to make things much more efficient so we can run a far larger map, optimize our server configurations to manage costs, and open things up so the game servers can talk to the wider internet instead of just our walled garden. Our current cloud setup also requires a lot of hand holding right now to get started up and stay running, so we need to create more flexible ways to manage our server configurations and tighten up the scripts that start, monitor, and stop all the various pieces of each development environment. We also got a cloud version of the website running so we could create and manage accounts on Int, but only in a rough debug mode, and there's still a lot of work to do before it can run in a proper production mode allowing the rest of you to access your own accounts and join us on Stag. In addition, we need to start sending the game's logs to a more permanent storage place so they don't get lost each time we need to make changes. Don't want to lose any of that useful data once we've got multiple people playing.

The final stage, Prod (Production/Barrow/Live), will largely involve polishing everything up based on what we find while testing everything on Stag, though there will also be a few unfinished pieces that aren't essential for Stag, like auto-billing and being able to make purchases at the Store. We'll also need to set up the process for shutting down our current Live servers, transferring all Live's final account and game data to the cloud, and starting back up in the cloud right where the physical servers left off.

It's hard to predict what other complications will arise as we finish off Int and move on to Stag/Prod, but we'll try to provide more updates along the way now that we've moved past initial cloud setup/configuration into getting individual parts of the game system working, tested, debugged and polished. We don't have a good ETA for when we'll get this all finished up, but hopefully we'll build up a better picture of that as we polish up Int and see more clearly which things are working well and which things need significantly more work. However, the destination is at least in sight now, a little blurry perhaps but still visible, and we thank you all for joining us on the winding path there.
Are there issues again today?
Nothing huge, just one of our occasional "failed to come back after Daily Maintenance" days. We're looking at some more minor changes to the startup settings to keep reducing the likelihood of this happening.
Oh, and just to be clear, we got everything back online right after we noticed the problem. Just needed the standard swift kick.
Are there issues again today?
Nothing huge, just one of our occasional "failed to come back after Daily Maintenance" days. We're looking at some more minor changes to the startup settings to keep reducing the likelihood of this happening.
Do you have any tentative plan for when these will be added in game?
Hoping to get this deployed in a couple weeks, but depends on what we find while testing it out. I'm heading in to the office on Monday to start the initial testing, then hopefully just a day or two more work before we can start making builds and doing the final rounds of testing. Those final rounds do take multiple days each though, and may need to be repeated if we run into issues.
I added a bunch of preliminary-but-hopefully-final data for the Combat Alchemist structures to the Public Spreadsheet (Wiki). I'm open to changing things if anyone points out some problems or potential improvements, but hopefully they're pretty fitting and balanced. Here's what got added:

  • Added the Alchemical Bomb and Combat Alchemist Trainers to Trainers and Feats on Multiple Trainers tabs, splitting all the feats assigned to the Visiting Alchemist Trainer between them. Feats focused on attacks/combat went to the Alchemical Bomb Trainer and the more general ones went to the Combat Alchemist Trainer.
  • Added Combat Alchemist Codex to Salvage tab. It basically just has Combat Alchemist Codex and Reference Book for stocks.
  • Added Combat Alchemist Codex (Alchemist 5/10/16) to Recipes (Codex) tab and Combat Alchemist Codex Collection (Seneschal 2-5) to Recipes (Refining) tab. No surprises in the ingredients, they're typical for codexes.
  • Added Research Center (Engineer 13), Bombing Range (Engineer 12) and Combat Alchemist School (Engineer 12) Structure Kits to Recipes (Settlement) tab. Ingredients include: Combat Alchemist Codex Collections, Practical Alchemist's Tools, Student's Formula Book, Laborer's Protective Gear, Targeting Dummy, Waterproof Tarps, Weighted Dropcloths and Cleaning Supplies.
  • Added Research Center (Large, both Combat Alchemist Trainers plus Expert Trainer), Bombing Range (Medium, Alchemical Bomb Trainer) and Combat Alchemist School (Medium, Combat Alchemist Trainer) to Settlement Structures tab. They use a mix of Security and Civilization DI (even split for the Research Center, more Security than Civilization for the other two) and a little bit of everything for bulk resources (mostly Ore for the Research Center and Combat Alchemist School, mostly Wood for the Bombing Range).
  • Noticed Spellcrafter was missing on Recipes (Settlement) and Settlement Structures tabs, so added that as well.