Exploit: Zero Day

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The Future Proof Podcast 013

Podcast episode

Gregory Avery-Weir  0:21  
Hello, and welcome to the Future Proof Podcast. This is our monthly podcast where we chat about stuff we've been working on and anything cool we're planning. I'm Gregory Avery-Weir. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  0:30  
And I'm Melissa Avery-Weir.

Gregory Avery-Weir  0:32  
And we just had a big release, I guess? A big event.

Melissa Avery-Weir  0:37  
Yes, a big emotional release.

Gregory Avery-Weir  0:40  
I meant like a like a product release. So we just made Exploit: Zero Day open alpha.

Melissa Avery-Weir  0:46  
Right. So that means no more alpha keys. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  0:51  
Yeah, used to only be able to get in by joining the mailing list. And now you can just go to exploitzeroday.com and sign up.

Melissa Avery-Weir  0:57  
Yep. We talked last month a fair amount about what Exploit: Zero Day is. What kind of game it is. And so yeah, it's been in development since 2014. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  1:07  
Yeah. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  1:07  
And it's exciting that like, just have it be open. And any random person can come play.

Gregory Avery-Weir  1:18  
And so we--sort of our process for doing that was: we had this list of features that we really wanted before we opened it up. And we finished all of those and then set our dates for the opening, and then kind of went back and--

Melissa Avery-Weir  1:35  
I threw a wrench in things.

Gregory Avery-Weir  1:36  
Well, I mean, it didn't actually push back our schedule, right, because we'd already finished other, other features. But it was "Hey, before we, before we release, we've got this chunk of time..." because you know, we had to push it back to be after E3...

Melissa Avery-Weir  1:48  
And the Steam sale.

Gregory Avery-Weir  1:49  
Yeah, there's all there's all sorts of stuff we had to work out with the calendar. And so you were like, "hey, there's a feature we're missing."

Melissa Avery-Weir  1:49  
Yeah. Yeah. And it's something I think it's really important for people to be able to choose what content they see for themselves in a space that they're choosing to be in, right. And so if you're applying Exploit: Zero Day, and there's someone who's not necessarily abusive, not necessarily someone you feel like needs to be reported, but you just don't want to see their stuff... Like, we didn't have user blocking. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  2:21  
Yeah. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  2:21  
Which is just like one of those things that looking back I go, Oh, you know, 2014, 2015 us didn't quite think of it that way. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  2:29  
Yeah, I don't know that we made it a priority like it would, would today. So yeah, I mean, it's a social game. There's not a huge amount of interplayer interaction within the game outside of the forums. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  2:40  
Right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  2:40  
But there is like, Oh, I don't like this person's levels. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  2:44  
Right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  2:45  
I don't want to keep seeing them in the list. I don't like their username. Well, whatever. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  2:49  
Right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  2:49  
And so you can now block. Just go to the user's profile and say, I don't want to see their stuff. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  2:55  
Yep. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  2:55  
And you can unblock easily and so on. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  2:57  
We're still incredibly committed to being diligent about handling reports or any sort of abusive thing.

Gregory Avery-Weir  3:02  
Yeah. Blocking is not for someone's being abusive. Blocking is for like, I just--did, we have something interpersonal. That's, this doesn't escalate the level of like, hey, let us know if someone's actually being bigoted or whatever. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  3:18  
Right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  3:19  
Yeah. So that so that released the eighth of the ninth? 

Melissa Avery-Weir  3:21  
Yeah. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  3:22  
Before, before we released on July 10. We did the final open alpha push. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  3:28  
Right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  3:29  
And that I mean, as far as game releases go, I think this was the least stressful that we've done so far, which is a good sign.

Melissa Avery-Weir  3:37  
What about Ace jam? How, how is Ace jam compared to--

Gregory Avery-Weir  3:40  
I mean, jam games are, are a little different. They're like, right? Because they're, they're limited in time, and we know that they're not big projects.

Melissa Avery-Weir  3:49  
Right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  3:50  
But this one, we were still nervous. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  3:52  
We were. And I think we did a much better job this time of kind of dispersing out the work. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  3:58  
We wrote blog posts ahead of time.

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:00  
Right. We wrote press releases ahead of time. So we worked... We had more working sessions than we normally would. But we did not have many very late nights. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:13  
Yeah. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:13  
And me as a person getting healthier: what a late night means to me is if I am still at my computer, like working, not playing a video game after 10:30 it is later than I want it to be. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:26  
Yeah. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:27  
And so most nights we were wrapped up before 11. Maybe across the board. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:33  
Yeah. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:35  
And so--

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:35  
I think, I think that night, I couldn't sleep. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:38  
Yes, I think that's different. Yes. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:40  
So but yeah, yeah, and so I did a little bit of stuff then. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:43  
But yeah, I think we did a very good job of kind of managing how--I went to yoga on one of those nights. I needed it. So yeah, I think I think release-wise, we were nervous. But we took steps ahead of time. We have--we something we did, I think that's good is that we whenever we found problems, we just kind of put them in our backlog.

We didn't feel like we had to--. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:09  
And let's, let's do, let's note this in our ticketing system, but we don't have to do it right now. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  5:13  
Right. There are some things we picked to do now. But yeah, we were nervous, but we're getting a little little bit better at this.

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:21  
Yeah, one thing we did differently this time is compared to other releases that we did not do a big press push. Like we didn't email a bunch of journalists, which was a major source of stress for us. ]

Melissa Avery-Weir  5:35  
Yep. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:36  
But I think that we, for what this is, didn't feel like this was a this was something that would be worth a lot of effort for journalism push. Like, it's not... It's not a full release. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  5:51  
Right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:52  
And it's also not an announcement. It's just kind of like, Hey, this is now available in a way it wasn't before. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  5:57  
Right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:57  
The one kind of PR push we did do that I that I think of the biggest, was we did a several posts on Reddit,

Melissa Avery-Weir  6:07  
Which is not usually my, my home. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  6:10  
Yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir  6:11  
Other than the Fallen London subreddit.

Gregory Avery-Weir  6:12  
I've gotten into be, being a little more of a lurker on Reddit these days as sort of a less, a less soul sucking way of, of, than Twitter of getting, you know, interest finding interesting things, pictures of cats, and--

Melissa Avery-Weir  6:14  
Just imagine--that, the fact that that sentence fell out of your mouth. Who would have thought it?

Gregory Avery-Weir  6:34  
I think, I think Reddit has cleaned up their act in some, some good ways--not, not as much as I'd like--lately, and Twitter has not done as much of that work.

But, but as with any game release has a certain amount of "here's this thing that we've been spending so much of our time on." 

Melissa Avery-Weir  6:56  
Yeah.

Gregory Avery-Weir  6:56  
And you release it, and of course random person going by isn't necessarily going to give you as much responses as you might hope. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  7:04  
Oh, right. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  7:05  
And so there's, you know, there's the kind of some downer things like the only--we got some good upvotes on reddit. And we definitely got traffic from it. But like the one bit of feedback we got was like, "Hey, your trailer isn't very good. And you're not presenting your your game well; you should work on your elevator speech."

Melissa Avery-Weir  7:23  
Yeah. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  7:24  
Which is a cool bit of feedback, but doesn't actually like there wasn't like, "You didn't show this and you should have," like there wasn't there wasn't anything that we could implement from that feedback.

Melissa Avery-Weir  7:37  
They're not going to workshop it for you. Right? 

Gregory Avery-Weir  7:39  
Yeah. Yeah.

And and asking back for more details, I think I came across a little bit... I think I unintentionally came across as if I was criticizing them, which I think this is part of still part of reddit's community, like community standards problem of like, it's sort of a confrontational space where people are like, kind of sometimes trying to one up one another and in certain, certain venues. 

And so that was that was a little stressful to be like, I'm not "No, I'm not... I'm not saying that you're too stupid for the game, or whatever. I'm saying, Did this not appeal to you because this isn't your kind of game or what, you know? What's the deal?" and was able to get a little better, better feedback on that.

Unfortunately, that the, my major focus, the day after was a bizarre amount of slow down that was happening. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  8:33  
We're talking like, this site would lock up every, every other attempt to visit the site, would just spin and spin and spin. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  8:43  
Yeah. And it was I would try and login. And we kind of I narrow down trying to figure out what it was and found out that if I tried to log in via Google, like via my Google OAuth account, that it would take literally four minutes. And during that amount of time, the whole site would, would be, would, would be locked up. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:04  
Right. So all sorts of technical things come to mind. Like something is blocking database or like, you know, this is like the--regrettably the kind of thing I spend a moderate amount of time doing in my day job is--

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:15  
Yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:15  
--dealing of stuff like this. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:16  
So we're digging in, or I contacted Dreamhost support and is like, "Can you check for slow queries being run? And they're like, "We don't see anything?" And I'm like, Okay.

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:26  
Revamped logging.

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:27  
And then finally, like working together, we realized that I'm running into this issue, but nobody, Melissa isn't. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:33  
Yeah. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:33  
And when I clear my cookies, the stops happening. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:39  
Because--

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:40  
Because--

Token auth is weird. Like, okay, there was some there was some weird junk in my session somewhere that was confusing our site enough in a way that we still don't really understand what was causing it. Other than like, presumably, I had something old that Django was just choking on trying to, trying to interpret. But as a result, like, the site locking up was entirely caused by me trying to repeatedly figure out why the site was locking up.

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:41  
Token auth.

And there was actually someone on I think, in that reddit--

Gregory Avery-Weir  10:12  
One of the things that Reddit person mentioned, was like, "it's real slow to login." And I'm like, "Yeah, we're, we're running into some server issues." I think I phrase it as, like, increased traffic is causing problems, which is technically true, although it wasn't like it wasn't like we had like... 10s of thousands of people visiting and it was choking our server, but it was, you know, it was. Yeah, it was that increased attention.

Melissa Avery-Weir  10:33  
So that was, I would say, on the clock, at least... I think it was about 16 hours from the time we went live to the time we were like, "Oh, damn." Fourteen hours.

Gregory Avery-Weir  10:45  
Yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir  10:46  
Of thinking about, what in the hell's wrong with our login system.

Gregory Avery-Weir  10:49  
But it was probably it was probably also like four hours of work, as I was just eliminating possibilities.

Melissa Avery-Weir  10:54  
Yeah. Not a great way to spend after a release, when you could have been sleeping, or relaxing or working on other things.

Gregory Avery-Weir  11:03  
Yeah, we had another interesting bug that we have fixed and actually know why it was happening.

Melissa Avery-Weir  11:08  
Yeah, it was a weird little problem is... You know, I have like tons of test accounts, just by virtue of all of this. And I got, I was getting double email notifications.

Gregory Avery-Weir  11:17  
We opened it up and you get one email that was like, "hey, you've got these new jobs."

Melissa Avery-Weir  11:21  
With these, like, "here are the details of the messages." And then you'd immediately, in the next round of email, sending get a things and "Hey, you got 4 unread messages." And that's not a nag we're supposed to send two minutes later. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  11:34  
Yeah, it's not a good look to be to be sending that many emails. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  11:37  
Yeah. It's something you would expect to get a day later, or like, sometime after you've been in the game. And so I saw it, I was like, this is weird. Greg's like, I can't confirm. I'm like, Okay, well, you know, let's go to sleep. There's only so much I can do. Look at it again, I'm like, it's still happening, it's definitely happening.

Gregory Avery-Weir  11:56  
You can make a new account, and every new person who signed up got two emails, just like. I mean that's not a--it's a bad way to start your relationship with someone.

Melissa Avery-Weir  12:04  
It really is just not good. So we tracked that down to some weird, just some weird old stuff. This was some old code--

Gregory Avery-Weir  12:13  
Yeah. I mean, if you're, if you're a programmer, it's what's called a fence post error. It, it was basically that we hadn't tested for two jobs being--jobs are like quests or missions in the game--being activated at the same moment. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  12:30  
Yeah.

Yeah. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  12:30  
So our notification system says, hey, you know, when you--when a new job message comes up, schedule a notification for it. And if it's, you know, in an hour say, if it's still, if they still haven't seen that, send them an email about it. Unfortunately, the way we were doing that resulted in... it was kind of like, make sure to not send any notifications that are scheduled for like two minutes from now. 

Except that it's, it wasn't, it wasn't that are supposed to happen now, up to two minutes from now. It didn't include the current time. And so that's, that's a whole thing. But that's fixed. So we shouldn't be seeing that anymore. So yeah, it's out, go to exploitzeroday.com and sign up and play. There's an entire season of free story. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  13:20  
Yeah. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  13:21  
And then you can buy--you can make puzzles for free, share puzzles for free, play other people's puzzles for free. But then you can also buy an additional season of story that is going on now.

Melissa Avery-Weir  13:31  
Yep, I have been going back through and playing some of the more... You can rate clusters and systems as creative or challenging or clever. And I've been replaying some that are more in the clever and creative category. The challenging ones... I mean.

Gregory Avery-Weir  13:51  
The challengings are real challenging.

Melissa Avery-Weir  13:53  
Even if I lower the speed of the puzzles, I have a really hard time with them. But it's been fun. It's been really fun. And if, if you play and if you decide you want to make something, and you want me to play it, you can DM me on the forums, or friend me in the game or find me somewhere.

Gregory Avery-Weir  14:13  
You're just "Melissa" ?

Melissa Avery-Weir  14:14  
Yeah. Yep, just "Melissa." And hit me up, and I'll play it and share it on the, share it on the forums, social media, whatever. 

So our final bit of news is that we have picked our next game jam that we're going to do. It is called "lowres jam," as in low resolution. It's put on by, it's hosted by Jack Oatley, it's over on itch.io. It runs from end of July until August 17. And the challenge is to make a game that is 64 by 64 pixels.

Gregory Avery-Weir  14:49  
Which is--

Melissa Avery-Weir  14:51  
Very smol.

Gregory Avery-Weir  14:51  
A cool challenge. Do you know that Jason Rohrer got his kind of fame--initial fame from a very similar jam? 

Melissa Avery-Weir  15:02  
Seriously? 

Gregory Avery-Weir  15:02  
Yeah, there was a there was a jam do a low rez game and he made Passage. And that's how everyone knows that dude. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  15:11  
That is cool. 

We will definitely link to it. I think there's... there's one that makes you laugh every time. And it is this little 64 by 64 one called "Norman's Sky." 

Gregory Avery-Weir  15:23  
So good.

Melissa Avery-Weir  15:25  
And you're just it's--

Gregory Avery-Weir  15:26  
Exploring planets. It's No Man's Sky except Norman Sky.

Melissa Avery-Weir  15:29  
Norman sky. It's very cute. So yeah, we'll definitely link to it. I'm excited to see what we come up with.

Gregory Avery-Weir  15:36  
Yeah, I don't know what we're doing yet.

Melissa Avery-Weir  15:37  
Yeah.

Gregory Avery-Weir  15:38  
We'll see the theme and then we'll--we'll probably dig into our morgue file of game ideas to see if one applies. But, but yeah, it'll be interesting to find out.

So you can find our other stuff other than Exploi: Zero Day at futureproofgames.com. We're on twitter at @playfutureproof on Facebook as Future Proof Games. Let us know if you have any questions or comments. You can comment on our blog or you can contact us on social media with any feedback you have.

Our theme music is Juparo by Broke for Free which is available under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai