The first in a series of Dev Diary articles, our resident multiplayer expert Paul Kelly gives us some details on the upcoming multiplayer update for Z:

I’m Paul Kelly, a senior programmer and director here at TickTock Games.  I thought it would be good to share my experiences working on a live project, one which we know many of you have requested and we’re happy to say will be with you very soon.

The project in question is Z Multiplayer.  This has been such a popular request over the recent months and we think it’s now time to add this feature and keep our fan base happy.  As you can imagine, making a game like Z work with multiplayer is no small thing, and we knew we would be dealing with multiple networking and logical issues.  However, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

So where did we start…

We inherited the legacy code for multiplayer alongside the main game.  Multiplayer had originally been written to use Bluetooth between two iOS devices, something that we sacked off pretty quickly as we realised that this increased the likelihood of devices completely losing contact with each other.   We decided to switch to using matchmaking with GameCenter instead, knowing that this would give us a new set of problems to resolve, but we also recognised that GameCenter gave us a controlled and stable environment used by many other games.

The next problem we encountered was that no touches were registered on some devices in this mode – this turned out to be a conflict between the GameCenter user interface and the main game user interface, so we resolved it by completely re-arranging the structure of the user interface.

However, the legacy code had yet more nasty surprises in store.  As you know, Z is a battle between the reds and the blues, but after a few weeks of careful analysis, the red team seemed to have a distinct, and somewhat suspicious, advantage.  This may have been compounded by the fact that none of the units for the blue team were being set up correctly leaving them undermanned and underequipped on the battlefield.   A surgical strike on the legacy code took out the offending functions, returning balance to the game, and a welcome break from annihilation for the blues.

Z Multiplayer is now, if not a safe place to be for one of your units, at least a stable place to be to play what is a highly addictive game.  There are still one or two bugs that have so far eluded capture, causing the occasional freeze during play, but we’re expecting everything to be ready for a release in early 2013.

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