AW 3.4 features - how many there are and how long it has taken (Wishlist)

AW 3.4 features - how many there are and how long it has taken // Wishlist

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Nov 25, 2002, 8:54am
I would like to address the issue of how long it has been taking to get AW 3.4 released, and attempt to answer the question of how often a new release would have to be produced to get the same number of features out "one at a time", so I've collected some information from:
Active Worlds 3.4 Beta Notes

Since the concept of releasing one feature at a time would be to get rid of the bugs in that one feature, I have went through the list and taken out all bug fixes. I have even removed bug fixes from the list that addressed old bugs from before the AW 3.4 beta, even though those would have had tobe addressed no matter how many features were added per release, and I have also removed from the list items like additions to the message files and other such things that I figure would have had to be included with other features in order for AW to work properly.

What's left, is just the features that have been added up to build 441, so this should give a very conservative estimate since none of the new features of the upcomming build 444 are in this list and I have heard there are a lot of them. I heard an estimate earier today of 3 more weeks until final release if all goes well, and I'll include that time in my calculations even though I am not including the features that will be added, tested, and if necessary fixed between now and then. So using 3 weeks from today as a completion time for all of the features added "so far" in AW 3.4 would place that date on December 16th of the year 2002.

At the time I am writing this paragraph, I have not yet counted the features, nor have I figured out how long version 3.4 has been in development, so I don't even know what the results will be... but I think I have a pretty good guess.

I just checked, and the current release build of AW 3.3 is build 419. The last beta build of AW 3.3 that I see mentioned in the beta newsgroup is build 417 which was released to the AW 3.3 beta team on June 12 of 2002, so obviously at that time the 3.3 beta cycle was not over yet so I think it's safe to say that the AW 3.4 beta cycle had not yet started.

From June 12th to December 16th is just over 6 months. To be exact, it's 187 days. (18 days in June + 31 days in July + 31 days in August + 30 days in September + 31 days in October + 30 days in November +16 days in December = 187 days total development time for all of the AW 3.4 features added from build 426 up to build 441)

Here's the list:

Build 426 Notes (6/28/02)
· Layered Clouds feature
· Gradient Sky feature
· new "fog color" option
· the old World Options and Lights & Fog dialogs have been merged into a new, branching dialog
· The browser now features a "head bob" when the user is walking around.
· On / off switch for the "head bob" feature under Options -> Settings -> General.
· A new world option has been added to show all avatar names.
· A world option has been added to hide all chat in the world.
· A world option has been introduced to block citizens from whispering to one another.

Build 427 Notes (7/01/02)
· Increased maximum fog distance (which also controls the maximum view distance) from 400 to 1200.
· The browser should now detect when a texture needs to be clamped, and when it should be tiled.
· The "text over the heads" system has been replaced with a nicer-looking system of comic-style chat balloons.

Build 428 Notes (7/29/02)
· Added new world option "Avatar Updates per second".
· Added new world option "Disable avatar list", which will cause the avatar list to be unselectable for all non-caretakers in the world.
· Added a new option to the settings dialog (under the "chat" tab) to switch between the new "comic style" chat bubbles and the original transparent style.
· Made several cosmetic changes to comic chat bubbles: They are now slightly more transparent, and they only reveal names for users that are less than 10 meters away and near the center of the viewport.
· The Field-of-View, which had increased in the initial 3.4 beta, has been altered so that auto-adjusts based on the aspect of the viewport. A square viewport would have a FOV of 90 degrees, while rectangular viewports will have a wider FOV.
· Due to overwhelming public demand, ctrl-turning is now re-enabled.

Build 430 Notes (8/21/02)
· The browser will now allow the world server to set the user's avatar and gesture, via a bot.
· Changed the way the browser displays avatar sequences so that only the wait sequences can be interrupted by the walk sequence.

Build 431 Notes (9/16/02)
· The original behavior of old-style chat bubbles has been restored, so that if the user chooses not to use the new comic chat bubbles the text will be displayed the same way as in previous version.
· The user will be pushed up to ground level if incoming terrain data leaves them underground.
· Coronas now have a maximum size of 200. (200% of the screen size)

Build 432 Notes (9/19/02)
· A new world option, water, is now available. Water can be used to fill the world with an endless rolling ocean.
· Avatars will "float" when underwater (gravity will be lower, and reversed).

Build 433 Notes (9/24/02)
· Now the user may adjust the speed at which the waves move.
· The user may now set the top/bottom water surface textures independantly and may specify a mask (for either the top or bottom texture) to use.

Build 434 Notes (9/30/02)
· A new checkbox has been added to the water options to explicitly enable and disable water.
· It is now possible to create untextured water.
· User's gesture is now reset to 0 when the sequence is finished.

Build 435 Notes (10/10/02)
· Allowed flying underwater, even when user does not have flying rights.
· Added a new feature where users will no longer be able to move or change objects they do not own, unless they have eminent domain. This will prevent many needless building rejections on the part of the world server, and fix the situation where users could defeat obsticles in-world by moving them and moving past before the server moved the object back.
· Added a feature where, if object selection is disabled in a world, the user will only be able to select their own objects.

Build 436 Notes (10/23/02)
· The world features dialog has been changed to allow for an apply button. Also, the box no longer locks the browser, so that you may now interact with the world while the box is open.
· The browser now plays a sound when a telegram arrives.
· Telegram sounds can be disabled under options > Settings > General.
· The browser now plays sounds when selecting, deselecting, or editing property and terrain.
· Building sounds can be disabled under options > Settings > General.
· Added new world options to allow the user to apply a texture to the world light source.

Build 438 Notes (10/28/02)
· The world light source texture will now be rendered after cloud layer 1, but before layers 2 & 3. This makes it possible to have stars in the sky that will not overlap the "moon" texture.
· The coulds and light source should no longer flicker when the world options are changed.
· Re-organized many entries in the world options dialog. The "scenery" section has been replaced by the "Lighting" section. Added a "ground" section.
· Added two new world options: terrain ambient and terrain diffuse. These values control how much ambient and directional lighting the terrain surface will reflect.
· Water now fades to a low-detail mesh in the distance, avoiding the terrible "tile" effect you would see as the water texture repeated off into the horizon.
· Water now reflects the world ambient and directional lights as the waves move.

Build 439 Notes (10/31/02)
· Water now has transparent edges where it meets the terrain.
· A new world option has been added for water: Underwater view distance.
· The "user agent" and "referer" has been changed in the browser. This controls how the browser identifies itself to a web server when requesting objects for download.
· Gravity no longer waits until terrain is finished downloading in a terrain world.
· Telegram sound should only play once when multiple telegrams arrive.
· Underwater bouyancy is now slightly weaker, making movement more realistic, and making it easier to swim.

Build 441 Notes (11/04/02)
· Skybox and backdrop will no longer render when underwater.
· The old object-selection behavior has been restored, so that users must have build rights instead of Eminent Domain in order to select objects owned by others.
· Fog is now always active underwater, even when it is disabled for the world.
· The water has been changed so that the low-detail mesh will not render under OpenGL. The effect used to render this mesh is not supported in Renderware OpenGL and simply caused only the low detail mesh to render, skipping the more-important high-detail mesh.

By my "conservative" count, that's 55 features.

In order to develop, alpha test, beta test, and release new 55 features in 187 days, one deature at a time, the entire "proof of concept - initial development - internal testing - pre-beta debugging - beta testing - debugging - final testing - final debugging - release testing - product release" cycle would have to be done in less than 4 days. According to the math, 187 days / 55 features = 3.4 features per day, coincidentally... hehehe... interesting that it should come out to that particular number.

Realistically, I think we could count on that process taking at least a month even for only a single feature, so at one feature per release we would be looking at 6 features instead of 55 which is just barely over 10%, and that's not even counting the features that are likely to be in beta testing by the time you read this.

So the bottom line is... if you want new releases squeezed closer together, you'll have to put up with a lot less features being added in the same amount of time. Personally, I would suggest encouraging the developers to keep up the good work. You're gonna love this new version. :)



Nov 25, 2002, 10:58am
I agree with what you're saying - it wasn't a good idea in the first place
to release a new version every month or so. But my problem is that you have
to draw the line SOMEWHERE, lol - and management keeps telling Young Shamus
to add more and more features. I'd bet after the next beta build is
released, there'll be several more features that are added, and it will
actually take six weeks until the release, if not more.

Adding features is great, and I agree that it should be a few months between
releases, but from what I hear the development team almost had 3.4 stable
enough to be released. Unfortunately, then it went completely back to the
drawing board with features that, while interesting and great, should have
been held for the next version.

Isn't this an example of just what you're saying AW should avoid? AW
released a "final beta" twice, and both times kept adding new features. The
amount of time wasted in premature "releases" probably will cost AW
thousands of dollars - exactly what you said AW should stay clear of.


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Nov 25, 2002, 5:38pm
Yep. That's pretty close. From what I understand also, AW 3.4 was VERY close to release, but there was a very misinformed war going on the the Community newsgroup and the ENZO was basically getting hate mail telling him to add the feature they wanted "NOW" or suffer the consequences. You might as well call it a terrorist attack, because that's just what it was. I really think they meant well, but the way they went about it... well, I'll shut up about that because I don't want to give them a reason to start it up all over again. Anyway, suffice it to say... that one feature is't going to be waiting until AW 3.5 as was originally planned, and as you can see from the math it doesn't do much good to add a single feature when you can add many features in the same time.

It wasn't the new release candidate that held up the show. The changes in build 438 were about half bug fixes and half new features. The current beta build is actually very stable for a beta. There were a few more bugs left to fix, but we have been testing build 443 for a pretty long time now while waiting for build 444 to come out, and if you look in the beta newsgroup for bugs in build 443 you won't find many even after all this "testing" time. I'm guessing if not for management being pushed into adding that one feature right away, build 445 would have been released to the public by now. Instead, build 444 isn't even released to the beta team yet. Don't blame the management. They were pushed and threatened, and there was dammage being done that they had to find a way to stop.


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Nov 25, 2002, 9:08pm
I don't buy the idea that the management was "threatened." The word
"threatened" seems to imply that someone went up to Mr. Noll's throat and
held a knife to it. Now if a corporate sponsor decided that a new feature
needed to be added, then that's different. I thought AW was done with
corporate sponsors - wasn't that why the price was raised in the first
place, so that AW could concentrate on its users? :)

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Nov 25, 2002, 9:31pm
Wow, snip the posts :P



Nov 25, 2002, 11:24pm
No company can afford to ignore business prospects as either an existing or
a potential market. If the hobbyist user is focussed on (i.e. the ingrates
of the general public ... us), AW becomes a hobbyist (and therefore
incredible) concern and totally unviable (and pointless) in business terms.
Why would AW be "done with" the potential of universe, galaxy and world
licenses and ongoing hosting and upgrade income? I understood that the point
of the price hike was to offset the slow-down in corporate spending in
general which resulted in less income for the company through those

What I would say is that if a customer of AW wanted something added so badly
as to throw a tantrum over it, then they should be paying for custom
development and maintenance of their own browser/server and fund their own
acceptance testing, not relying on a semi-public beta to iron out any
creases. Another consideration is that AW aren't in a particularly strong
bargaining position with potential sources of income ... they need the cash
and the paying customers know it, so they're over a barrel either way.


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Nov 26, 2002, 9:55am
So you're saying that if somebody badly dammaged your source of income and your reputation and then told you that they were going to continue causing dammage to it until you gave in to their demands, you wouldn't consider that a threat, huh? Well, to each their own. You're entitled to your opinion.


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