News Post - Competition Calculations & the December 19 Update

Thursday, Dec 22 at 12:29

Hello dear players! As most of you have noticed, since December 20th (Tuesday), the resulting scores in competitions have dropped by an average of 3 points. This took all of us by surprise, and our team has been working full force on finding out what happened. Today we’re sharing the results of our investigation so far. We want to first explain what happened with the competition calculations. Then give a bigger insight into what happened with our update on Monday, why it went so chaotic, and how it led to the changes in the competition scores.

It all comes down to a series of unfortunate events and mistakes we are extremely sorry about. We didn’t mean to add any stress into the holiday season. This chaos amplified recent frustrations that the community voiced about our updates, and we understand it’s upsetting. In fact, we are highly upset about this situation ourselves. This is not how we imagined this year to end. Our plan was to give you all the long-awaited semen vial market and a few extras, so that you could start your holidays in a festive mood! This update, however, had other plans for us. We are grateful for all the players who helped us with their swift reports to figure out what happened. Thank you for your keen eyes and patience.

This post will cover the following sections:
🔷 Why are horses scoring lower in competitions now?
🔷 Competitions: Questions & Answers
🔷 What went wrong with the December 19th update?
🔷 December 19th update: Questions & Answers
🔷 Open issues and our outlook/plans ⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️ (this part got updated on December 22, 18:05 HR time)


Why are horses scoring lower in competitions now?

To give a small recap: On November 16th, we updated the competition calculation formulas. This was meant to end a long history of competitions not working correctly - we found some bugs that we could fix, and changed something in the logic of the scoring formula in order for fairer results (details below or in the linked news post). An unavoidable side effect should have come with this fix: A small drop in competition results for all horses.

We received many reports that our fix didn’t seem to do the trick, and we also couldn’t observe the drop in competition results, at least not for all horses. If anything, it felt like things were made even less fair. We were a bit flabbergasted by this because the results players reported didn’t correspond to the code changes we made. We continued to gather data and observe the situation further.

Following our update on Monday (December 19th), competitions and conformation shows came to almost a full halt. That seemed very strange as this week’s update shouldn’t have affected shows and competitions at all, no changes were made to them. Upon investigating, the culprit turned out to be a bug that sneaked in with our server move on November 2nd - two weeks before the formula fixes for the competitions were applied. In the wake of our investigations, it turned out the same bug had caused part of the November 16th update to not get processed correctly. The most recent theory has held true:

Following the update of November 16th, some horses got scored based on the old competition formulas, and others based on the fixed formulas. This kept creating odd patterns in the results that many of you noticed and reported. On December 20th, the glitched queueing process was fixed and the queues were rebooted. Since the in-game events picked back up, they now apply the original fixes, as they were meant to happen in November already. All horses now get treated the same, and receive fixed (lower) scores.


Competitions: Questions & Answers

What exactly changed in the competitions?
The changes that were meant to get applied to all horses on November 16 only got applied to some. Following December 20, the same changes should now affect all horses entered the respective competitions:

🔹 Western Reining tack should now be taken into consideration (wasn’t before)
🔹 Driving tack should now be taken into consideration (was only partially before)
🔹 And, most importantly, for all disciplines the formula that determines the competition scores was adjusted to allow a higher range of variety.

In the old system, the worst possible theoretical score achievable in any competition was 40%, which has been changed to 0% in the new system. For most horses, this change will result in a small drop in the competition scores. It will still be highly unlikely for a Horse Reality horse to achieve a score of 0, as the horse would have to have extremely low stats, be untrained, have no tack, etc., and bad RNG luck. However, the differences between stats from horse to horse will have a greater impact on the final score, so that higher stat horses should win more regularly over horses with lower stats.

🚨 This means that from Tuesday (December 20) onwards, your horses’ minimum and maximum scores in all competitions will be different from before! We advise you to keep this in mind when assessing a horse’s competition performance, since scores from before this update may no longer be achievable. 🚨
(This does NOT affect conformation shows, only competitions.)

I hate the low scores. Can't we go back to the old system?
This is unfortunately not possible. Our previous competition scores were layered with bugs, causing them to be inaccurate indicators of your horses' performance. In retrospect, the scores were never fully correct. Bugs have caused at least some distortion in the scoring of some disciplines at any given time.

Importantly, the scoring updates haven’t changed the stats of your horses. Only the way the stats and other factors (e.g. tack) reflect in the scores. A great horse is still a great horse. The bug fixes should create a new baseline score, a different system. If that works as we want it to, the scores should depict differences between horses more precisely. So a horse with better stats should now have all the better chances to beat a horse with lower stats, if all else is comparable between them. If we were to keep the previous system, your horses’ scores may look more impressive but they would be rooted in flawed formulas all over again. It would be buying aesthetics at the cost of bugs.

The bugs which have plagued the competitions are frustrating. We are incredibly sorry that, time after time, you are faced with a flawed system. To offer the community fun and reliable competitions, we must make these changes to arrive at a functional scoring system. We can’t promise this to be the last update to the competitions. And the chaotic way in which these changes came are far from how we wanted them to go over. But among everything else, many players reported that the scores do seem to better reflect the stats of their horses. This makes these changes a step in the right direction, and our team will try to fix bugs and keep optimising it until we get it right.

Untrained, neglected, tackless horses are scoring higher than my horse, why?
Many of you report that the scores no longer reflect the tack, training, and care status of a horse properly. At this time, it’s hard to tell whether this is because of the recent changes, whether yet another bug is at play, or whether it works correctly but further tweaks are needed. We have looked at our system to figure out what the discrepancy might be. Everything looks to be working correctly. But just because it looks correct, doesn’t mean we can’t tweak the code to reflect the horse’s condition better!

Competition scores are made up by several factors:
🔷 Conformation (discipline specific)
🔷 Genetic Potential (discipline specific)
🔷 Training (fully trained horses should score higher)
🔷 Physical fitness (100% fitness should score higher)
🔷 Grooming (100% grooming should score higher)
🔷 Tack (adds extra points to the final scoring)
🔷 RNG (to get some variation)

We read along with your bug reports and findings and understand your concerns, but will need more time to look into this in depth. The best thing we can do is to continue competing until the new year. Then we can properly address, investigate and potentially implement a tweak. Please report any findings in this thread!

What’s happening next with the competitions?
Since the competitions are only now (starting December 20th) officially using the new scoring, we have to conduct more research. This is especially important since some things still seem to be off. You would help our dev team tremendously if you can keep entering your horses and report any findings in this thread. This way, our team can go through all the data the moment we’re back from the holidays.

Sadly, this means we cannot do anything about this right now, but only at the beginning of the new year. We wholeheartedly understand how upsetting this is and wish we could implement a fix sooner for you. All we can offer right now is a hopeful outlook for 2023: If we manage to resolve these final question marks, the scoring formulas might be working correctly for the first time in literal ages.


What went wrong with the December 19th update?

On December 19th, we put the game into maintenance mode to roll out an update bringing bookmarks, the semen vial market, and the V2 laboratory. You can read the associated news post here. This update was scheduled to go out sooner, but due to numerous factors (e.g. sickness in the team, more testing needed) was pushed to this Monday. When the time came to release it, the update seemed fine on the test server. Because it was supposed to take about 10 minutes to complete, there was no downtime announced ahead of time.

In the process of updating, though, things didn’t transfer at the usual speed and seemed to take forever. The update started out well, but at some point kept producing errors and therefore aborted the process. Any attempts to resolve this quickly didn’t succeed, but we were able to isolate the culprit: It was the new “studs and semen vials” market page that couldn’t cope with the amount of data it had to go through in the live game. At this point, we had to make a decision: Revert the parts of the update that had already gone through and start over the next day. Or publish the update as-is, leave the bugged market page out, and add it with changes the next day. Reverting the update was our preferred option, as we’ve learned time and time again that uploading unfinished updates is a bad idea. But the development team told us that even that would take 2 more hours of maintenance mode in the best case, and if something else unforeseen would happen, the maintenance mode would have stayed on for the entire night.

Faced with two bad options, we went with the option of rolling out the functional parts, planning to complete the update on the next day. For the time being, the new studs & semen market area was inaccessible. Unfortunately, that too didn’t go as intended, as several new bugs popped up along the way: Many shows and competitions got stuck in award ceremonies. It was hard to enter them, as horses stayed in the “being inspected” status a lot. The search page broke when trying to look up studs. Stud fees misbehaved. Instead of a mostly complete and functional update, a big mess resulted.

Come December 20th, the dev team went straight back to work. They made changes to the missing studs & semen area (without sorting options and with a downscaled pagination, to make the page cope with the amount of live game data) and added it to the market page. They then began to roll out bug fixes for the most recent issues. Additionally, our entire team kept investigating the situation to find the cause behind the chaos of the previous day.

In this process, we found a problem that must have sneaked in during the server move on November 2nd, and that had been well hidden in the meantime. Normally, when we release a game update, our code gets updated in all areas in the game. But due to the server move, this process didn’t work in all areas. Some internal queuing processes did not run as they should as a result. This had been causing some glitches around the game, such as conformation shows with too many entries getting stuck frequently. Until then, the dev team hadn’t found the cause.

During the big update on Monday, the same pre-existing bug showed its full scope. The malfunctioning queueing kept the update from completing normally, since some data couldn’t transfer. It also caused many of the glitches that followed, such as shows and competitions acting up on a big scale - which had seemed strange, given that we made no coding changes to either of them. Once this bug got fixed and the queues restarted by our dev team, the shows and competitions started to run like normal again. But then a new issue started to transpire - the competition scores suddenly behaved differently. And then we realised that the same old server move bug we had fixed now, had caused the November 16th competition calculation fixes update to not get applied to all horses.


December 19th Update: Questions & Answers

Don’t you test your updates in advance?
We have an internal server that our team uses to test updates before they go live. Additionally, we plan to open a player test server in early 2023. This will be a big step towards better testing, since it means more people can look at a feature, try to break it, find bugs, or make suggestions before it goes live.

Importantly, even with a player test server there is no way to mimic the exact conditions of the live server. Even when simulating the amount of activity, the real deal is always different and can result in unforeseen problems. While we continue to strive for better-tested features, we can never guarantee that a feature which worked perfectly fine in a testing environment will behave the same way in the live game.

For this week’s update, the testing phase was prolonged to fix some final bugs. In the available time, our testers and the devs brought it into a state where everything was ready to go. Things only got messy when the update got rolled out in-game — unfortunately and frustratingly, no amount of additional testing could have prevented that.

Did you have fewer developers than usual working on this update?
We’ve had the same number of developers working on this as usual. The chaos surrounding the release was caused by an unfortunate series of events which the dev team couldn’t foresee until we uploaded the data to our live game, due to the reasons listed above.

When bugs started to pop up, all hands were on deck to make sure we could fix the problem as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, game development is a tricky process and sometimes an issue which seems simple at the first glance is in fact quite complex. Which turned out to be the case with this update.

We want to use this chance to clear up a case of miscommunication. There is a commonly-held belief that we only employ one part-time developer, based on a news announcement from June. It said we “usually only have one part-time coder working for us”. This was an unfortunate way of phrasing. It is true that we do not have developers working on Horse Reality on a full-time basis. We actually work with a third-party development company whose devs work on different projects, one of them being Horse Reality.

We’ve been working with them for a while now, which allows us access to a whole team of developers. They can share their combined knowledge, which is a great benefit. But as a third party, they also need to juggle their time between us and other projects/companies. However, if an update goes wrong, the development team puts all the attention on us to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

To say we only have one part-time developer is therefore not reflecting the reality. At the time when the news post in question was published, our staff capacity was indeed way more limited than usual and we wanted to provide that detail as background information. The result was a single sentence without enough context to interpret it correctly.


Open Issues & How We Will Proceed

⚠️ The following text has been adjusted on December 22, 18:05 HR time ⚠️

Today, December 22, 2022 at 16.30 HR Time, we released a few bug fixes:
🔷 Searching for conformation stats should now work on the stud & semen market →
bug report
🔷 Studs & semen trade page displaying the wrong owner after a horse got sold. Please note that the bug where a horse is not removed as (private) stud from the old owner is still active.
🔷 Several texts related to the studs & semen market were rewritten to create better sentences and more proper grammar overall.

Not fixed today, December 22, 2022:
The following bugs were looked into, but turned out to be too complex. With every attempt to fix, it turned out that other areas didn’t work as they should any more. We’re worried that if we would touch those right before Christmas, that possibly other issues may pop up again while no one is available to solve them. We are aware of how much these impact the gameplay, and take your concerns seriously. Considering how important competitions and market features are, those will be our highest priority. Although we wish we could offer a swifter fix, the first moment we can take a deep dive into this matter will be in January, after the holidays. We want to address these bugs with a fresh set of eyes, rather than working on a quick fix that might cause even more issues over the holidays.
We understand how disheartening this news may be, and wholeheartedly agree that a sooner fix would be better. With the holidays right around the corner, this was the earliest time slot we could pick.

🔶 Studs that were already on the market before the update have a bugged message and transport cost. This is, unfortunately, something we cannot fix this week. If we applied a quick fix, we may make things worse, and we’ve had enough of that this week. You can solve this problem for yourself by taking the horse off the market and putting it up again. → bug report
🔶 When a stud gets sold that was a private stud for someone before, it doesn’t get removed as (private) stud. ->
🔶 Incorrect stud fee → bug report
🔶 Horse not removed as (private) stud when the horse is sold → bug report
🔶 Public and private stud options seem to be conflicting with each other, and stud owners cannot seem to breed with their stallion when he is up for private stud to someone. There are 3 workarounds: 1) Access your stud through your mare's page, 2) If you remove the stud as a private stud, you can use it yourself again, 3) Look at the stallion's profile URL, replace the word "horse" in the URL with "breed". Example: https://www.horsereality.com/horse/1/ -> https://www.horsereality.com/breed/1/
🔶 Semen/vial market → Filtering Issues: Sorting and pagination are not entering the game right now. This is to ensure that the game keeps running stable.
🔶 KIT genes → How to proceed? This is not a bug, but rather a bug fix. Until this week, testing the KIT genes often displayed wrong results unless all genes of that locus got tested. We implemented a temporary fix on December 19th. Now you must test all KIT genes for any results to display. This has received mixed feedback, and we might make further adjustments to it. To make sure your opinions get considered, please share them in this idea thread!


I suspect I’m experiencing a bug. Where do I go?

Our bug reports forum is dedicated to any bugs you may find. When submitting a bug there, however, we always ask for you to be as in-depth as possible. This helps us to narrow down the problem and pass on the information we need to our development team. We created a thread on exactly how we need you to submit your reports for them to be maximally useful. Unfortunately, and we know that this comes with the worst terrible timing, any bugs not fixed before this Thursday can only again be looked at starting January 8th when the holiday season is over. It will be our very first priority come the new year to go over your reports.

Untrained, neglected, tackless horses scoring higher than your competition horse?
Possibly a bug, go here to share findings: https://www.horsereality.com/forum/topic_88291/dev-1053-the-34new34-competitions

Horses scoring lower than usual?
Most likely not a bug, but you can discuss here: https://www.horsereality.com/forum/topic_89644/competition-issue


We want to close this off with a huge thank you to all players who have hung in there with us, provided information under the news and in forum threads, and waited patiently as our team worked on resolving the situation. We appreciate your keen eyes and diligent reporting of issues you encounter, as it allows us to get ahead of problems immediately. Thanks for your support and patience during these times!!

The Horse Reality Team 🐴

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