Avatar Farm 1.2 on Peer Review!

We’ve put the Avatar Farm 1.2 update on peer review, here are the changes and improvements.

  • (Maybe for sure this time)Fixed P2P Freeze during score sharing.
  • Added the concept of tools (tractor, seeder…) that improve farming speed.
  • Added 5 new plants: Tomato, Potato, Corn, Sunflower, Rice
  • Added 2 new decoration elements: Scarecrow, Clothes line
  • Fixed USA Flag not visible
  • Fixed flags not visible from one side
  • Added animations to all flags.
  • Increased level cap to 20.
  • Now you are asked to sign in with an account before playing
  • Added freeze and crash detection system to improve further bugfixing.
  • Added a progress indicator to the season text.
  • Improved scenery around the farm

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WaaghMan August 29th, 2011 News 4 Comments

Avatar Farm patch 1.1 released (Still freezing, BUT!)

As some of you already know, the 1.1 patch for Avatar Farm has been released. This is the detailed list of changes:

  • Fixed some frequent background loading issues
  • (Hopefuly) fixed frequent freezes due to P2P score sharing
  • Added a setting to disable P2P Score sharing
  • Increased view distance of the plant icons
  • Increased player walk speed around 15%
  • Reduced experience gained for fast-growing plants
  • Increased experience required to level up
  • Increased level cap to 18. Some plant requirements have been updated to fit in the new range.
  • Fixed not being able to move up when you’re in the 2nd row, 1st column on the purchase screen.
  • Increased the time it takes for a plant to die in 50%. Also added a minimum of 12 hours for a plant to die.
  • A message is shown when you exit the game, showing the time you have until some plants start dying.
  • Recycling gathered land no longer gives 5 coins.
  • No autosave message is shown on trial mode.
  • Increased autosave interval to 5 minutes (instead of 2 minutes).
  • Reduced autosave duration by 25%.
  • Fixed not being able to set sound/music volume to 70.
  • Fixed Code 4 crash when trying to show more than 64 plant icons at the same time.
  • Fixed Trees not growing fruits on the correct season when loading the game.
  • Now trees won’t instantly grow fruits when purchased.
  • Added 2 new camera modes: Isometric (not exactly, but almost) and a global view to admire your farm 🙂 (you can’t play in this camera mode)
  • Fixed a minor camera rotation issue
  • The active camera is saved
  • Added new decoration elements: Country flags.
As the title says, sadly the freezing issues haven’t been fixed with the changes we did to the P2P score system.
But now there’s a way to disable P2P score sharing on the game settings, so you can get rid of the freeze just by disabling them.
Of course you won’t be able to mantain a syncrhonized scoreboard if you disable them, but you can always enable it for a while, wait for them to synchronize, and then disable again.
We’re still working on this and looking for the reason for these freezes, but, to tell the truth: Now we’re totally clueless. We’re out of ideas as of what can be happening now. So we can’t promise we’ll be able to fix it. But rest assured we’ll try our hardest.

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WaaghMan August 23rd, 2011 News 12 Comments

Avatar Farm!: Update status, freezing issues and other problems

Hi everybody,

As you may have experienced, Avatar Farm! has a freezing issue that can occur anytime while you’re playing. First things first, our apologies for releasing a game with a bug as that one on it.

Now our excuses:
As some of you may know, the XBLIG  platform doesn’t support official leaderboards, or setting up our own servers to store gamer data or provide services to gamers. For that reason, we use a custom P2P sharing scoreboard. This system works as follows: While you’re playing, network sessions are created from time to time, and other players playing the game at the same time join that session. Once joined, scoreboard data is shared between both players, and data is stored on both computers. After that, they disconnect and start over again.

Although quite dirty (too many connections, lots of repeated entries sent…), the system works, which is better than nothing.

Sadly, this environment is hard to test while developing the game: At most we can test with only a handful of consoles/computers sharing data. In this controlled situation, the system works fine and everything goes smoothly. But, once the game was made available on the Marketplace, literally hundreds of people are playing the game at the same time, connecting and sending data each other.

In this situation, some issue in our code arises and causes a total freeze: The only option when this happen is to reboot the console with the power button.

We’ve tried our best to reproduce the issue in our limited environment, to no avail: We’ve let a handful of systems running and sharing at an increased rate (around 100x the rate on the released version), and no freezes are found. So we’ve had to look for the issue “by intuition”, looking carefully at the source code and trying to guess what could be happening (since there’s no way to determine where is exactly the game freezing).

We’ve found some things  that could be causing the issue, and fixed/improved them, but there’s no way to be 100% sure that we’ve fixed the freezings. So, to ensure you can keep playing even if we haven’t fixed it, we’re going to add an option to disable P2P score sharing.

Meanwhile, we have some workarounds you can do to avoid the freezings:

  • (Only if you are using a wired connection) If you just unplug the network cable once the game has started (Xbox Indies need you to be online to start the game, but once started you should be fine), you won’t share scores with anyone so no freezing should happen.
  • If you disable online play in parental control settings, you won’t be able to share scores as well and you should be safe (remember to enable it again to play other games!).

Since XBLIG doesn’t allow to submit an update until 7 days after a game is released, we won’t be able to submit the update until next Thursday. And once the update is submitted, there’s the usual approval process, which can take a week. So we expect the update to be available around Tuesday 23th.

Other issues:

We’ve been also notified of other issues, such as red screens or sound issues. Many of them are related with a bug in the loading process, which will be addressed in the update as well. This isn’t as usual as the freezings and in most cases you can keep playing.

Gameplay issues:

We’ve received some complaints about plants rotting if you don’t attend to them. Although this is a game design decision, it seems that many players are upset with this mechanic, so we’ll be reducing its effect:

Currently, once a plant is ready to be harvested, it waits 100-150% (randomly selected) of its growth time until it dies.

We’re going to change it in the following way:

  • A plant will take 150%-200% of its growth time until it dies.
  • The minimum time until a plant dies will be of 12 hours.
So, for example an Aloe Vera now takes 10-15 minutes to die, it will take 12 hours. A pumpkin  takes 2-3 days to die, now it will take 3-4 days.
We’re going to add a message when you’re quitting the game where you will be told when do you have to come back if you don’t want any of your plants to die.
We’ve seen as well that many people has leveled up way faster than we intended, there was some people at level 15 in just 7 hours of gameplay. We’re going to increase a bit the experience needed to level up on higher levels (around 25-50%), and more importantly, we’re going to lower the experience bonuses from fast-growing plants (such as aloe vera, cotton…) to 50% of their current value.
We’ll also increase the walk speed of your avatar, we don’t know yet the exact value, but expect an increase of 10-20%.
These are the main things we’re going to change in the next update. We’re going to add some new items as well, and maybe increase the level cap a bit, but we’re not sure yet.
Our intention with this game is to keep updating the game, adding new items and features to add more variation and gameplay elements to it, but we’re only doing it if it proves successful (we hope you understand).
The Milkstone Studios Team

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WaaghMan August 14th, 2011 News 31 Comments

Avatar Farm! Released and ready for download

Our latest game Avatar Farm! has been approved and is ready for download! You can download the game, or a trial version, from here: http://bit.ly/o2KSTQ

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WaaghMan August 11th, 2011 News 8 Comments