Community Update - What’s going on? & Riding School Update

Wednesday, Aug 31 at 16:36

Hi Communeighty, welcome to an irregular community update! Usually, you’d only hear from us next week, but we know it’s time to address some of these things going on.

Today’s topics:

  • What's been going on with all the bugs since the server move?
  • Upcoming changelog
  • The Captcha & RealVision
  • Riding school update
  • Future updates

⚠️ Everything’s broken - What’s going on? ⚠️

On July 14th, we moved Horse Reality to a new server. We did this intending to improve your gameplay experience - but so far, things have only gotten worse. For many of you, the game is hardly playable anymore. You are impacted by involuntary redirects to other pages, error 419 and 500 messages, unexpected log-outs, mares birthing octuplets, some pages just showing up blank, … - the list could go on and on. Not everybody is affected by the same problems, but the majority is experiencing at least some disruptions in their gameplay. This is certainly not what we expected or wanted to happen.

Ever since the server move, we’ve been working on fixes for new and recurring issues. The scope and persistence of these bugs took us by surprise, and it has been a rocky time. Let’s fill you in with what exactly has been happening behind the scenes.

Our old server was a dedicated server that we had to maintain ourselves. Considering that server development and maintenance are not our expertise, we started looking for other providers to take over that part. We found a company that seemed experienced, as they also provide hosting and maintenance for large brands that many people know. Based on their portfolio and experience in this field, as well as several talks that went well, we felt comfortable choosing them as our server hosting and maintenance providers.

The initial main hurdle was that their infrastructure behind the scenes works very differently from our previous server. They work “in the cloud”, which should give us a lot of advantages: It should mean the game works faster for those who don’t live near our server. It should mean that if one part of the server goes down, the rest still works. And that if the server happens to catch on fire, the game is still backed up somewhere else. So theoretically, there are many advantages, but changing a once stationary server system to a cloud-based system is complicated, which is why our development team worked closely with the server team for the past half year already, to prepare everything for a smooth change.

Despite those efforts, the moment the move was completed and the game back online, a LOT of bugs popped up all over the place. Many things that the server company hadn’t foreseen happened and keep happening. We’ve put out fixes every week since the move, to keep the game at least somewhat playable. But the bigger underlying issues with the new server system remain, and every time we have fixed one bug, two sprung up in its place. When we fixed those two, the first one came back again. You know the “whac-a-mole” game, where you try to hit targets that keep popping up all over the place with a hammer? Yep, exactly like that.

In an attempt to restore a playable state as soon as possible, we put our focus on the tech side and internal processes - forwarding bugs to the devs and testing fixes. With so much going on and our limited team size, this came at the cost of communication. Keeping you in the loop was made even harder by the pattern of these bugs: Every day brought a new list of issues, and each fix came with the chance of unwanted side effects. Our apologies for being so silent at a time when you were expecting more information from us. We are exploring ways to keep the community better informed during such crisis times.

This situation has been infuriating for all sides. We had such high hopes for our work with this server company but it has become clear that even the best preconditions are no guarantee for success.

Due to the complexity of this situation, we don’t know when all of these issues are going to be sorted.

This is our current plan of action:

🔹We’re in constant communication with all parties involved, both figuring out how we got into this mess, and how to come out of it.
🔹It’s become clear to us that we won’t keep working with the current hosting & maintenance providers. We will move servers again, to a company that we’ve successfully worked with in the past and that also provides a cloud-based solution. Moving to a different system again needs preparations from our side, and will therefore need at least another month before it feasibly happens. We’re also in the process of looking for a different party to take over server maintenance.
🔹Until we’re on the new server, we’ll not sit idle but do what we can to fix or contain the bugs. At the moment it seems that many bugs are somewhat related to our care rollover (not the new “daily rollover” popup, but the general existence of the rollover). One option we’re currently discussing is to pause the care rollover until we’re on the next server. For the time being, horses wouldn’t need to be cared for and wouldn’t lose physical fitness or affection. Bank interest, horse age, pregnancies & other game parts wouldn’t be affected. While it wouldn’t be the best-case scenario, having some weeks without rollover but also without game-breaking bugs, seems preferable to us than having those weeks with rollover and with bugs. This is not decided yet, though, and we’ll send out another news post in case we’re going for it.
🔹Some recent bugs involve currencies or items gone amiss, and we won’t be able to give you the reimbursements you’re due right away - that doesn’t mean they’ll be forgotten. We’re first working on fixing the big things that go wrong, and once the storm calms down, will look into possible solutions for reimbursements. We appreciate your patience!

One thing is for certain: We can’t promise that any of these steps bring the relief we’re hoping for. The avalanche of bugs may continue, even after we’ve moved servers again. It’s also possible that with one of our next background updates, things will be back to normal. We certainly hope for the latter. But even if so, as a game in development, this will not be the last time we experience a crisis.

🐾 Upcoming Changelog 🐾

Our Community Updates follow a monthly schedule now, but the devs are constantly working on the game. At times, we publish announcements in between to fill you in about changes, but only if we can assume they will noticeably impact your gameplay. Every week, we also make a ton of small updates to Horse Reality in the background that should either go fully unnoticed or have a minor impact: think small bug fixes, speeding up the server, database maintenance, etc. As there are so many of them, especially in crisis times, and we’re typically assured by the devs that they won’t impact players negatively, we don’t usually announce them. However, this strategy backfires if there are unexpected negative effects.

We’re currently working on a public changelog where we’ll publish notes about such changes that wouldn’t usually get a place in a news post. We hope this will help mitigate situations like the following in the future.

👓 The Captcha & RealVision 👓

On August 9th, we added a captcha to our login page. This was part of our many ongoing background updates battling the server move bugs. Two weeks later, as an unintentional side effect, this update caused RealVision to stop working. For those unaware: RealVision is a webpage that aims to predict adult HR horse coats based on the foal versions. This is a player-made third party tool, meaning that it is not made or maintained by the Horse Reality team.

Over the past weeks, players frequently reached out to us to bring RealVision back. That is understandable, given how useful the extension has become in many people’s gameplay. Yet, because it is a third-party tool, we need to set the record straight to avoid false hopes or expectations that we can’t live up to.

We’re flattered that our players would build such tools, and we appreciate the creativity and continued time investment by the creators. Such player-made extensions are a welcome sight in the gaming world. At the same time, we are very much a game in development. This means that we’re frequently making changes to our code. As the server move has demonstrated, it can already be a challenge to make updates without anything in the actual game breaking. The intention behind each of our updates is to improve and stabilise our game, but that may at times as a side-effect result in third-party extensions not functioning properly anymore. With our current resources, we simply can’t afford to also estimate if and how those code changes will affect such tools, since they are fully separate coding projects.

In this present case, a solution was found by the creators of RealVision to bring the tool back, which is a great outcome! But where a conflict exists between rolling out a necessary update and maintaining the functionality of a third-party tool, we need to prioritise the former. Unfortunately, this means that situations like this may happen again in the future, even with a public changelog. Player-made tools might break, and if a fix is not found by their creators, we cannot offer one. We are aware of how harsh this sounds, but we want to be honest in that regard about what we can or cannot offer - towards the players who want to build such tools and towards the many who use them.

Please also remember that player-made tools are created by volunteers who code these projects in their free time. If a situation happens where such a tool breaks, please grant them time to figure out where to go from there.

🐴 Riding School 🐴

On to happier news: The results of our riding school poll are in! Of 7173 voters, 603 wanted option 1, 3342 wanted option 2, and 3228 option 3. This means option 2 has won with 47% of the votes!

Today, the riding school was updated to the new numbers. We changed some of the task names to better match the new durations, and used this opportunity to give the art a touch-up as well. (One of the images isn't showing up properly right now, that's a caching issue and will get fixed in a bit!)

Check our wiki if you want to compare the numbers. Caroll cannot wait to welcome you over at her stables - she always needs helping hands!

➡️ Upcoming Updates ➡️

Consulting our development roadmap, we’ve managed to release everything we wanted to in August, except the reworked horse overview (stable blocks). We thought it wiser to first get a grip on all the ongoing issues before releasing more updates, therefore this is now planned for September.
Likewise, the two updates we’ve planned for September will most likely slip to October, seeing that all the bug fixing took a large part of our dev time from us.

Planned for September now:
🔸 Reworked horse overview (stable blocks) - V2 & mobile-friendly!
🔸 Reimbursements for university/company: Returning HRC spent for starting uni/company, as well as 5x copies of a special limited edition background for those who finished university. (When we initially announced this background, it brought forth a discussion between some of you who were concerned that this background might end up too rare, and others who found it appropriate. Both sides had good arguments. In the hope that this provides a compromise, we will create an opportunity during our birthday week in October where others could get their hands on 1x copy of this background.)
🔸 Bugfixes (not server-related)

Planned for October now:
🔸 Horse Reality birthday week from October 3rd to 9th
🔸 Semen vial market & competition calculation bugfix

This week’s art feature called "High-strung" was sent in by BluePotato. This horse's strength is truly admirable, and so is the mastery of capturing such a dynamic moment. Chapeau bas!

Want to show off your art here? Then send it to us here!

Next community update: TBD (when we have news)

The Horse Reality Team 🫠


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