24) release expectations « Tidepool News

Tidepool will always have bugs I haven’t found.  It’s the nature of software.  The only way to a solid bug-minimal product is for many people on many systems to push its limits and record their findings.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We officially released Tidepool Alpha 3 last Tuesday. Even with an extra month of tests and fixes, working harder than I’ve ever worked, I pushed “send” on the invitation email with trepidation, afraid of what I didn’t know.

Last month, my first full test yielded exactly 40 bugs, which I fixed in two weeks.  The next test was an even 30 bugs, which took one week.  The last yielded a coincidental 20 bugs, which in itself would an amazing, till we found exactly 10 on the day after release.  While the numbers were going down, the fixes themselves were shaky.  I was burnt-out and long overdue for rest.

So I let myself slump like an understuffed carnival prize, looking up now and then to see who of the 150 had clicked through my email or downloaded Tidepool.  Each day, Isabel and I recorded a new episode of Let’s Play Tidepool, our YouTube series chronicling our misadventures in-game.  What a joy to finally play Tidepool again with my daughter.  And yet no one else had played.  Only a tenth had even clicked through the invitation.

Friday morning I broke down and fixed some bugs, then uploaded new installers.  Later I sent a test announcement, asking people to click through my custom mailing list functionality. By day’s end, roughly half had clicked, so at least 70 people were getting my emails, of which 8 had downloaded.  But why weren’t people playing?

Friday night I found the reason, a whale of  a bug that kept out new players.  Over the next 24 hours, I worked 18, finally stopping last night with new installers and an even greater fear that I’d once again made a mess of things.

Whatever the outcome, I need to step away now.  Our initial $75,000 investment is gone.  The collective year and a half of Tidepool time is over.  I need to focus solely on billable hours again, perhaps saving Saturday for fixes.

Now is a time to actually play Tidepool, sketching agents and making games for others to play.  Bugs or no, we need to put away the nuts and bolts and build a world.  Only then can we lure more than ten people to try it.

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