Last night we hosted our very first semi-public play test with the new XNA version of Gunstyle. Tonight is the midnight deadline for submitting to Dream Build Play. I’ve been hearing some bad experiences about it, so we’re all a little worried about getting it submitted in time. We’re going to be submitting our current build for now, but also try to get more fixes in before the deadline and hopefully submit a newer one later today.

It was an absolute joy to play with the people that participated last night.  Thank you to all that showed up last night! A super big  thank you goes out to Michael ‘Ziggy’ Morton of for helping raise awareness of Gunstyle and for his general XNA community support! Also congrats on getting MS MVP status, Ziggy :)! After 5 long months of just playing 1v1’s with Martin or Adam, having some fresh competition is a god send :). The pay off of seeing others play your game at the same time and enjoying it, even in such an early state was worth it. And what made it even sweeter was there was no major show-stoppers that kept people from playing a few maps. We had 1 somewhat big issue with map server changing through the admin console, which we intend to hopefully track down tonight. The game host would drop everyone from the server and they would either timeout or crash to desktop (I believe a bigger percentage were timing out). Big oops there, but current work around is to just not change the map as an admin and let the map play it’s course.

The other pressing issue was performance. With only 3 people fulltime  on the team to test game features and such, it’s difficult to test loads and how the game would hold up with 6+ players. On the plus side of things, our physics engine for the game held up superbly when things started to get choppy. Yet when there was 5+ people on screen all shooting like maniacs things sometimes slowed to a crawl. So we’ll have to start doing our rounds of optimizing and profiling real soon. My current suspicion is our custom animation code that isn’t optimized. Last night was a great milestone for the whole team. Seeing it in action and being able to say ‘ok this is what we have…now we just need to smoothen the rough edges’ is great :).

On a different topic, I’m still not sure what to call these builds of Gunstyle. We named them ‘betas’ just so people kinda-sorta know what to expect. But to me, betas have always been ‘feature-complete’ and just lacking on stability/polish. Yet, Gunstyle is still missing some features sorely (like custom controls, which is near the top of our to-do at the moment). Calling a game ‘Alpha’ to me also feels like it’s very early in development and sometimes might give people the wrong impression to not bother with it. So it’s kind of a mind game of sorts.

Now we’re focusing on getting the game submitted. Which has me wondering also on how this game will be judged compared to normal single player experiences. Gunstyle is pretty much exclusively a multiplayer-only game. So no players = no fun. But we’ll see how that turns out later I suppose. Also, we have a dedicated server in the works, that is functional (from my last post), but simply not stable enough to warrant public use. That’s another one of those top things on our list.

Anyway, if you’re interested in helping test Gunstyle online then drop by #XNA on EFnet in IRC for a link, or contact me. Right now during peak hours we just let loose and let people play and just try to log any issues that we come across, while in calmer times it’s a bit of a more structured bug hunt. Hope to see you in #xna or in one of our GS servers :D!

**Update: **Updated the development image gallery with some screen shots of last night’s action :).