Saturday, March 31, 2012

The road before us, Kaya Player to the MAX. And also Free games

Release was yesterday and each time we release it becomes easier than the next. The process is very well oiled, and we are very happy and proud for it.

Constant improvement is very important for us, becoming stale is our greatest nightmare.
We want users to know that we are working hard and each version is better than the previous one.
Since we implemented the changelog, there have been 12 releases (there were 3 before, but non-documented).

As a tour for users which might have forgotten, and others that havent experienced the server, let me give some milestones examples.

Before 0.3, Kaya didnt support handicap. You couldnt play anything but an even game. You couldnt share links in comments, you needed a special command for that.
Not to mention Absolute time was the only time available, and if you disconnected, the clock kept running. It was really Absolute :).

The Context menu had only 4 options, of which one didnt work (remember the lack of PM guys?) and the other two did work, but had no feedback, so it was hard to tell if it did. Plus Muzzle and Karma were actually pretty buggy back then.

I love the progress we did, and its extremely fast and aggressive. For some sys admin work i created another server with a version from 0.3. Its not only unrecognizable, it plain sucks. Its slow as hell (we did a lot of performance work) and you have 1/10th of the things to do.
At this pace, by the end of the year we would be over 50 releases. We are growing so fast!

This week we finally finished the Kaya Player. What we had before was pretty cool and people liked it , but it wasnt where we wanted it to be, or how we wanted it to be. The new version fits our idea, and its excellent. Greatly interactive, looks great, its kickass.

But also this week had lots of back-end work. I am facing the first difficult design challenges since probably the inception of Kaya. Spent a lot of time thinking what was best.
On the bright side, i have found the path for many other solutions in the meantime so it was really productive, even though invisible.

The first thing that became available now is free games, and soon being able to pick handicap one way or another.
Im not a fan of negotiations, no other server quite solves it elegantly, and for most matches its an unnecessary step.
However , as we removed that step, we took the challenge to solve many other conditions.
Stay tuned.

PD: We are still looking for an ipad! Some people have contacted me abotu the topic. I am surprised to learn used ipads are easily sell-able, so its likely we will buy one if we dont get a supporter one.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

More beta preparing, and Meijin account for an Ipad!

Hey everyone!

We have been working really hard lately on preparing ourselves for beta. We took a whole day on sketches and designs of the game screen , now that we know what things we are missnig and we have tasted the difficulties and advantages of the space we are using to play on the server.

We visited all major go servers systematically and took data on what they did right, and what they did wrong.
It was a humbling experience in a way. We are currently facing some design challenges that we now see how other servers dealt with.

I dont think any server hit the right spot yet. There are higher levels of design to do.
We have a strong challenge in our hands, and this is one of those things that make the whole difference on the experience.

Unfortunately for current users, that work is purelty invisible until the whole new design is deployed. We'll see if we change each page one at a time, and gradually doing it so we cann get lots of feedback. Of course, the server will look quite hybrid meanwhile :). But even that is not near. The designer we wanted to hire for it is not available so we have to look for a new one.

Releases in the next few weeks will probably be thin because of this work. We have to finish the design, and then polish all the major bugs that make it sometimes a troubling experience to play.

On the other hand, there is another opportunity here to help us a lot. Our site is basically supported in all platforms, but we have limtiatinos on the platforms we can test. We dont own mac computers, so we usually cannot try things out there. We dont use windows, so often bugs in that platform get past us.

But more imoprtantly, we dont have ipads or tablets. Although visual design can be emulated, the experience of playing with a touch screen cannot. Right now, if we wanted to get an ipad we would have to ask around quite a bit because in argentina its almost never used. Its a very rare (and expensive) product here and most people that own one use it for development, so we cannot borrow it for a long period of time.

We dont need a brand new ipad, so it can be second-hand, as long as its well functional. Specially if someone is planning on buying the new one, we could use the previous one.

Whoever could donate us that, we will give them the Meijin Kanji for his account, and he can ask for 2 I-pad/tablet specific feature of his choosing.

If anyone is interested in helping us out with that, send us an email at so we can discuss details.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

0.13 comes with Widgets and a LOT of invisible work.

Widgets. This is something we talked about a very long time ago and finally we put a space on the main chat for them.

Widgets are small optional tools of interaction to provide access to different activities and uses. Because of our web environment, and growing our Open Source side, the number of potential features that could go into the site is very large.

Which means that we need to provide a space with some dynamism, that can be easily configurable and that it could have unlimited functionality.

Hence, the widgets. We have opened up widgets on OpenKaya, including a list of ideas to implement.

With very mild knowledge of HTML and javascript, anyone can work on a solution with a particular service they want, whether its a news feed, announcements, translation of terms, anything!
So this is another space for someone to contribute for, and it is by far the easiest place to do so.

We have started working on the diagraming for usablity and visual design of Kaya, the most important missing piece for Beta. This is going to be hard, but work put in here will have an impact forever.

But that work is certainly not gradual and it will not be shown until its fairly advance, so it remains invisible.

Also we finally opened up a part of GoSpeed(our JS-board) to the rgf project by jj so they can start using our board for their promising potential project.

We have also starting to get some assistance by another user on setting up monitoring tools, so improve the reliability and status checks of Kaya as a server. I normally know when things go wrong, but the better tools we have, the faster we will react to production-level problems.

And Finally, the Admin Dashboard. So far, i've been administering things in a pretty raw way. The first admin dashboard is done and it will allow the admins to have some control over users, games and other important information. As this grows, Kaya might include its first volunteer admin to check it out :).

So even though this week we did provide a sacrifice to the volcano, the vast majority of our work was towards Beta, and invisible preparations.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Preparing for Beta

Here at Kaya we are working hard on getting to Beta. Beta is the next milestone and its when the server will be open and it will be free to make an account and play.

Our main challenge ahead is the redesign of the site, which fine as it is, is not nearly as good as we can make it and want it to be. There are several other things to work on by that date, from bugs to new features we want to add.

The truth is that we self-sidetracked a bit in the last 2 months. We worked on anything we wanted, which now makes the Alpha server super featured. It takes quite a while just to know what is there, its way too advanced for a typical Alpha project.
But while our hunger for adding features is infinite, we have increased priority on things required for Beta, so we can expand our user base. In the end, the most important thing is to have other people to enjoy Go with, and for that we need to open up.

We are very nervous and excited about it, im sure opening up will be a very special thing for the community.

So for the typical question "when is Beta going to be released" a.k.a. "how long until i can play", we estimate about 2 months. Its a lot of time. Thats 8 releases and we have 13 so far.

13 amazing. The server is totally different to what it was at 0.3.

Hope everyone will enjoy our hard weekly paced effort.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Great community effort on translations!

Hey guys.

Since the Translators wanted post last week, 12 languages were translated.

I've been working on it and trying some translations on kaya, which uncovered more parts of the application that i didnt internationalize. So its not over yet :).

Also, unfortunately, i doubt i will be able to include them for 0.12, because..

- Monday and Tuesday were days off for me.

Since the initial release in december, i've worked pretty much all weekends since. I was fast approaching burnout and i needed some rest.
i was unlucky though, and bad weather forced me to stay inside, which is what i wanted to do least. But it forced me to rediscover Heroes of Might and Magic 3 in impossible settings, and my best friends'Nintendo DS.

- Libary issues

Mainly, one of our dependencies has an issue with encodings, recognized and half solved. But because its not totally solved, special characters produce some errors we cannot allow. So unless i find a good patch to that, or they fix it, i will not be able to include them.

Instead im now working on trimming the wiki, which is astoundingly large. Many of the tweaks are really old and dont even apply. And we are fixing more and more.

We want to work asap on the new design, which is the most important thing to go over before beta.
We also need a lot of polishing. Things work quite well,but thats not the standard we want to achieve. We aim for excellent, and excellent is a lot of work and time.

Stay tuned!

Friday, March 2, 2012

0.11 is an AWESOME release. Translators wanted!

Today's release has left us very proud with the week's work. We solved so many issues, while also expanding our feature list.

The experience was greatly improved today, but also our have our responsibilities.

We have laid grounds for internationalization which means that providing different languages in Kaya is automatic as soon as we get translated texts.

For this purpose i created a project on Transifex, a site recommended by a friend oriented to community driven translations. It was a little akward to set up, but now that its prepared its super practical for translations.

It has a very nice ui, and the information is all organized. Translators can make comments and suggestions on original texts or the very translations they offered.
Our highest priority regarding languages are Japanese and Korean.

We have little to no Asian users and we want to get feedback from them, and internationalizing the application for them is vital. We strongly favor native speakers, as quality is a priority. All westerners have suffered the poor english of asian servers, i dont want them to suffer the same from us.

Of course, any other language is welcome, you can make a request for that language on the Transifex platform.

Although hasnt been 100% internationalized, over 75% was so far, and its actually not a lot of text, less than an hour of work probably.

Donators contributing to the project can get upgraded to collaborator.
Non-donators can get an account with a solid contribution(a whole language). Again Asian languages are very appreciated! Specially japanese and korean.

I will save the rest of 0.11 features for another post during the week.

Lets make Kaya the best Go server!