In the last article, I told you a bit about our new Sources functionality. It was a serious change, that impacts most of the system’s components, but that’s not everything we’ve prepared for our next Alpha release.
I guess the title already told you what I’m going to reveal now. Achievements are the next feature we implemented in StormDriver, and I’d like to tell you both “how” and “why”.
It came to us recently, that we have all the ingredients necessary to create a great achievement system. We have an established point mechanic. We have streams and notifications that let you know whenever something interesting happens globally or among your friends. We keep track of everything users do through StormDriver for the sake of various algorithms and statistics. We realized, that introducing achievements would be a logical next step.
We developed a couple of them, did some testing, and found they not only fit in really well, but are also very engaging. It’s always nice to know if someone did something crazy or unusual. Or to get some recognition and a shiny badge. And speaking of recognition – where can you get more of it, than in the system, where all the users will instantly know if you achieved something great? With various event-propagation methods in StormDriver, achievements go to a whole different level.
Right now we have nearly a hundred of them in the pipeline, and the list is likely to grow. We will never make a full list public – you’ll know only about the ones you’ve seen in streams, or the ones you’ve discovered by accident. Some of them will be awarded for doing basic things, like sharing good content or inviting friends. Others… let’s just say will be more creative. Here’s a short example of what you can expect:
“Mirror Image! – Find a user who’s your Clone and enter his or her profile”
“I Knew It Before It Went Mainstream! – Be the first person to up-vote a page, that subsequently gets at least 100 Rocks”
“Divided By Zero – Stalk someone who stalks someone who stalks you”
“Storm-a-holic – Log on to StormDriver at least once a day for a full week”
People who added you to their Sources will be notified about every achievement you get. You will also get your own trophy cabinet on your profile, so that everyone who visits, knows what you’ve done. The badge designs you’re looking at are an early version, but they should give you a general idea of what want the trophies to look like.
But wait, Achievements are not everything.
Browsing goes pop-up
As if we didn’t have enough work already, we decided to do another revamp of our browsing system. Browsing was one of our oldest gripes in StormDriver. Testers who’ve been with us from the start probably remember, that it went through many, many changes.
The reason is simple. No one has ever done a software social browser like that before. We were treading on unknown grounds, we had to find a way to make it all work by ourselves, without any systems to compare to. Now, we’re happy to say we’re closer to reaching our target than ever.
Right until now, if you clicked on any page in the stream, the system would go into the browsing view and then you’d go to the page of your choice. We found a better solution. In the new version, if you click any link, the browsing view opens up OVER the stream. You can view the full page just like before, you can check a public layer of this page to see who was there, who’s there now and what they say. However, if you click a new “close” icon in the top bar, the website disappears and you end up back in the stream, exactly where you left it. It gives a nice feeling, that the social networking part of StormDriver stays in place the whole time, and all of the browsing happens above it.
I know it doesn’t sound as much, but when we tested it, we were surprised by how much faster, easier and more intuitive the browsing becomes, without having to go back to your Home screen every half a minute, and without the feeling of disconnection you get, when after clicking a link you are brought to a different part of the system.
As you can see, we rolled out three major and time-consuming changes. We also made a lot of smaller improvements. The performance tweaks made browsing faster. We improved grouping of similar events in all streams, and made them cleaner and easier to read. We improved the way videos are shared and played throughout StormDriver (including both Youtube and Vimeo). We did a lot of bug fixing.
That’s quite a lot of work for just one month. Fortunately, we’re almost done now, and the new version, called Release Candidate 4, should roll out next week. Of course, we’ll invite a lot of new testers to give it a proper spin!
Oh, and I saved one interesting piece of information for the last part. After the RC4 hits the deck, we are planning to do one more alpha release, RC5, that will add a final layer of polish to the system, finalize all functionalities, and fix the remaining bugs.
After RC5 we plan to go into full-blown open beta.
It’s too early to throw any dates around, but it will happen sooner than later, most likely in the next few months. Stay tuned for further announcements, and keep an eye on your inbox, as the big wave of invites for RC4 testing should go out soon.