Feedback Spurring Neon FM App Development with Unit-E CEO Eric Yockey

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http://www.bemanistyle.com/2016/07/01/feedback-spurring-neon-fm-app-development-with-unit-e-ceo-eric-yockey/

Unit-E Technologies is hard at work on a Neon FM application that will allow players to enjoy the game on iOS and Android formats, while also allowing them to connect data with Neon FM arcade machines.

The app has been in testing and is now in a version 1.6.5 beta version. The initial update asks players to test multiplayer stability, performance issues on songs and gameplay bugs, while a hotfix to the version remedied missing sound effects and a Russian translation crash.

Participation in the beta is still through invitation, but Unit-E Technologies CEO Eric Yockey was recently able to provide some details on how tests have gone thus far and what players can expect from the applciation.

Yockey reported the company saw approximately 400 signups the first day the open beta was announced. On June 18, he said 378 different users have played at least one game on iOS and Android formats.

Loading more players into the beta not only allows for more input, but it also means more features, such as multiplayer, are being put to the test. Yockey said having more testers has led to even more bugs being found and addressed.

“We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback and realized some things still weren’t fixed to the degree we thought they were,” Yockey said. “The biggest issue right now is getting the offsets to work for all devices, which is tough because every device has a different sound delay. It’s really hard to set good values for that on devices we don’t have. Often, people won’t report what values they have, and will just say stuff like ‘the offset sucks,” or not play at all after a couple of rounds of bad offsets, which isn’t the point of a beta.”

Yockey said the app’s automatic offset feature is supposed to default to “on,” but one of the updates switched the default to “off.” He added the automatic offset was reported to be working for most players and can be found in “More Options,” “Gameplay” and then under “Automatic Offset.”

The purpose of a beta is to help us fix the game so everyone can have a good experience

Those in the beta have access to a Facebook group where data and questions can be asked. Yockey said it is important the players report their issues, as he or others are quick to address questions and concerns. He said, even if the issue has already been reported, users are encouraged to still report the issue so the developers know it isn’t an isolated instance or think the issue has already been fixed through an update.

“A lot of people seem to treat betas like shareware, and we’ve seen some testers play a couple of times, complain on some other community’s forum about it, and quit,” he said. “The purpose of a beta is to help us fix the game so everyone can have a good experience. So, getting detailed reports about what happened, the circumstances under which it happened, and any other data that may or may not be relevant allows us to actually fix problems. Stuff like, ‘was playing and crashed,’ or ‘offset is crap,’ doesn’t help at all. If someone just wants to play and doesn’t want to help with the process, they’d be better served by waiting for a public release they won’t have the issues they would take with the game.”

Yockey added the dialog with players has been great and has even led to even more features being added as a result.

“Overall, the testers have helped a lot,” he said. “We’re very receptive to feedback. Probably over half of the options in the game are things that people asked for. We also recently got some complaints about the translations, so I opened up our language database to them, and those user fixed it themselves, which is a huge help.”

The offset calibration is one of the hot topics being addressed by the developers as he noted the players who typically sign up for a rhythm game beta are the top 10 percent of players in ability. Yockey said feedback has led to the arcade-authentic rolls being changed to holds in the mobile version, and hitboxes are another factor being continually toiled with.

“The bracketing issue is tough because that was originally in, but no matter how I tweaked it, it was just obnoxious and would cause me to hit notes by accident,” Yockey said. “The hitboxes are still there for it, and I could turn it on, but then I’d have to add an option to the menu for it, which is a process, and I feel like I’d only be proving a point. The problem with giving people esoteric options like that, is people inevitably turn it on by accident, not realize the problem, then get frustrated and quit. Still, since we’re in beta, I’ll likely add it back in for testing in a wider group.”

The goal is to get it working on everything

While having very skilled players in the beta is a blessing for combing over the fine details of elements such as offset and multiplayer, Yockey said these players do tend to overlook the more basic difficulties and features of the game.

“My fear is there’s underlying issues with beginner mode and other things beta users wouldn’t normally care about,” he said. “Someone did report a big percentage error on beginner, though, and we fixed it quickly.

“We fall victim to it a lot, too,” Yockey continued. “Usually when we find a bug in the arcade version, it has to do with lower difficulties. There are some problems unique to music games that are really hard to program for, as well. Offsets are again a big example – I’m probably the only person on the dev team that is qualified to give an opinion on it, but I’m the weaker of our two programmers. So stuff like multiplayer sync can be fixed easily by our better programmer, but the calibration wizard is really hard to get right because I’m the one that has to make it work.”

Optimization is also is a very large focus for the project.

“The goal is to get it working on everything,” Yockey said. “So, hopefully, we can optimize it to work on underpowered devices. Right now we’ve been focusing on issues related to our servers and our multiplayer engine, since we recently had to migrate all of our netcode to another API.”

Yockey said the beta is expected to continue until the team is able to fix the major bugs that would affect a general audience.

“I really dislike when companies release games they know are bugged, so we’re not going to do that,” he said. “It’s honestly hard as a dev to not release when I get lots of messages begging me to release it. That pressure has caused us to release stuff a little too early in the past, so I don’t want to repeat that mistake and give people something that could disappoint them.”

About author

Aaron Auzins

A professional writer who has been involved in video games writing for nearly a decade. From handwritten fanzines as a kid to growing up and writing for a number of online sources, I have at least slightly dabbled into nearly every aspect of independent video gaming. Rhythm and fighting games are my jam, and I use my free time to organize events that promote positive gaming.

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