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Starsector 0.97a is out! (02/02/24)

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Author Topic: Vapourware?  (Read 4277 times)

Thaago

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2022, 10:32:31 AM »

I'll note that the majority of indie (and not so indie too!) software products that follow the 'release very frequently' model fail and fail badly, with developers burnt out and the community either abandoned or angry. The latest update of the game are frequently buggy, with updated users complaining that they can't even play until the bugfix updates come out (looking at you, Paradox! Seriously, at least have some people play your patches before you release!). While everyone would love for starsector to be developed more quickly (without burning Alex and co. out), it hasn't fallen for either of those traps. I certainly didn't expect a ten year "wait" (in quote because its weird to describe a period when I'm actively using and interacting with the community of a product as waiting) when I bought the game, but at this point it would be extremely shocking to me if this product died, and I'm still having fun when I boot it up.

A big part of that is mods (though I enjoy a good base game run a lot too), but then again having long running, mostly bug free periods of stability is good for a modding community as their products can be developed in a stable environment and have long runs where they don't need updates. The downside is that it can take a long while for modding APIs/features/requests to be implemented... but on the other hand those things do get done, so active work is going into making the game more moddable.

My understanding of the phrase vapourware is probably wrong, but I always thought it was a product promised but nothing of it is ever seen - 'so much hot air', etc etc. Maybe for a while that term could be applied to individual features of starsectors feature roadmap, but I think they've all had some stuff added to address them at this point? Its also a bit weird to apply the term to individual subitems of a product, because oftentime plans just change.

Starsector is more like... "Glacierware". It is slowly and inexorably moving towards completion, crushing all doubters in its path and leaving boulders of strange code in its wake for code geologists to analyze in thousands of years, with an ecosystem of modder mammoths being hunted by users for pelts and food.

...

That analogy really got away from me there. More coffee!
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Fireside

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2022, 10:33:25 AM »

I think you're looking at this from the wrong PoV (IMO at least).  You said you are/were a software developer and it shows in your opinion, I personally have had every one of my jobs land in customer facing positions in a lot of different markets.  I'm familiar with dealing with how customers interpret your marketing and the successes or more often fallout from that.

From that perspective, then the very vague/loose timeline and lack of information before an update is released as opposed to after makes a lot more sense than you might think.  I live in a small close knit community.  I'd actually venture to say smaller than the player base of this game.  People being understanding evaporates quickly especially among an older crowd (older here meaning 28+) which I would venture is a larger portion of the player base but that's just a guess.  What tends to happen when something is announced ahead of time and changed, or even more commonly misunderstood, is people feel lied to.  People our age are cynical and quick to assume the worst.  We are pessimists.  This leads to a building feeling of betrayal that rarely gets communicated until it reaches a boiling point, unless someone on the companies side has the forethought to address it proactively.  That kind of "sixth sense" in customer service is what used to earn my pay and is what I was trained to deal with, and more to the point is exactly what I'm willing to bet is outside the comfort zone of the Alex/David.  It's not what they specialize in.

It shouldn't be in a closely knit community or (IMO) ever an issue with any software release. This isn't Cyberpunk, it's not Stalker 2, It's not Starfield, you're not going to get corporately slammed or risk a billion $ share price tanking if you speak to the community.

This right here is why all of what I said is relevant.  First, as a developer, you should know better than just about anyone that what should be and what is are never the same.  People are illogical especially when it comes to something they are passionate about.  Next, the idea that because they aren't some big name company making an anticipated smash hit title does not mean that they care any less about company image.  Cyberpunk released in the state it did and while there was massive backlash and value lost CDPR survived.  Indie developers don't have that luxury.  Losing community support, publishing something terrible, or just customer malice from a misunderstanding can be enough to tank them completely.  Public opinion is a fickle beast that can make or break an indie developer far more easily than a large corporation.

Is Alex being overly cautious?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  That's a matter of opinion and one that I personally don't have enough information/data to have strong feelings about, but I'd be inclined to agree with the way they've been doing things.
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Ryan390

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2022, 10:35:27 AM »

You can "see" progress being made through changes to publicly available API (which us modders do).

It is only a part of the game, but between 0.9.1a (May 2019) and 0.95a (March 2021) Alex has written 74k LoC and removed 5.6k. Then between 0.95a and 0.95.1a (Dec 2021, with further RCs) he added 30k LoC and removed 1.9k. As of now, API consists of over 1500 files and 182k LoC.

I would hardly call it vaporware (and certainly not abandonware).

You're labouring on the vapourware narrative, but I guess people can't respond to incremental software design as it's hard to challenge an industry standard, but easy to google word meanings and challenge that instead. 

We have systems where I work older than 15 years with less code, so I do wonder what 178k lines equates to! I don't really know LUA though.
Those systems are responsible for generating millions of pounds of revenue each year via online retailing. I think in my entire career I've probably never written that much 178k lines, are sure that isn't code generated by a tool?
(Yes that's a thing, not being offensive) :)
Generally, less is more and simplicity is the ultimate form of elegance, especially when software is concerned. When you get into messy codebase territory it's hard to unpick and massively slows down further features.

Anyhow, thanks for sharing, that's good to hear and know, maybe a large part of the community doesn't access your source control repos, so we don't all see that activity.
It was my understanding that Alex also had a full time job, this was a side project, maybe that was the case and has changed now?
« Last Edit: March 04, 2022, 11:12:20 AM by Ryan390 »
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Ryan390

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2022, 10:39:25 AM »

Starsector is more like... "Glacierware". It is slowly and inexorably moving towards completion, crushing all doubters in its path and leaving boulders of strange code in its wake for code geologists to analyze in thousands of years, with an ecosystem of modder mammoths being hunted by users for pelts and food.

Exactly, a much better choice of words! Don't get me wrong I'll always support it, as we all will.
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Ryan390

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2022, 10:51:49 AM »

I think you're looking at this from the wrong PoV (IMO at least).  You said you are/were a software developer and it shows in your opinion, I personally have had every one of my jobs land in customer facing positions in a lot of different markets.  I'm familiar with dealing with how customers interpret your marketing and the successes or more often fallout from that.

From that perspective, then the very vague/loose timeline and lack of information before an update is released as opposed to after makes a lot more sense than you might think.  I live in a small close knit community.  I'd actually venture to say smaller than the player base of this game.  People being understanding evaporates quickly especially among an older crowd (older here meaning 28+) which I would venture is a larger portion of the player base but that's just a guess.  What tends to happen when something is announced ahead of time and changed, or even more commonly misunderstood, is people feel lied to.  People our age are cynical and quick to assume the worst.  We are pessimists.  This leads to a building feeling of betrayal that rarely gets communicated until it reaches a boiling point, unless someone on the companies side has the forethought to address it proactively.  That kind of "sixth sense" in customer service is what used to earn my pay and is what I was trained to deal with, and more to the point is exactly what I'm willing to bet is outside the comfort zone of the Alex/David.  It's not what they specialize in.

It shouldn't be in a closely knit community or (IMO) ever an issue with any software release. This isn't Cyberpunk, it's not Stalker 2, It's not Starfield, you're not going to get corporately slammed or risk a billion $ share price tanking if you speak to the community.

This right here is why all of what I said is relevant.  First, as a developer, you should know better than just about anyone that what should be and what is are never the same.  People are illogical especially when it comes to something they are passionate about.  Next, the idea that because they aren't some big name company making an anticipated smash hit title does not mean that they care any less about company image.  Cyberpunk released in the state it did and while there was massive backlash and value lost CDPR survived.  Indie developers don't have that luxury.  Losing community support, publishing something terrible, or just customer malice from a misunderstanding can be enough to tank them completely.  Public opinion is a fickle beast that can make or break an indie developer far more easily than a large corporation.

Is Alex being overly cautious?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  That's a matter of opinion and one that I personally don't have enough information/data to have strong feelings about, but I'd be inclined to agree with the way they've been doing things.


Apologies but failing to see your point or relevance to software releasing. When you've worked in I.T corporate environments and multiple different teams with hundreds of experienced devs for 11 years, you start to know a thing or two and get a feeling of what works and what doesn't. I'm speaking purely from experience as a senior software engineer, (In terms of writing software and getting it out timely without sacrificing quality)

Believe me, in my environment, stuff has to work because it can have massive ramifications. Not just from millions of £ of revenue, but the reputational loss of the organisation. So we don't skip on quality, but we still do incremental releases, TDD, tests, monitoring, Out of Hours Alerting and Support, AWS Best Practises, legacy code liberation and 'boy scouting' etc..
The opposite to incremental releases is 'big bang' releases. They usually equate to lots of bugs on launch and teams that work that way generally find themselves not getting any feedback during the dev cycle, only at launch.
Not a good idea, no company I've joined generally does that, at the very least use a feature switch and do a 'dark launch' (subset of users, gather feedback) then roll the full feature out to the wider audience, given success of the few live trails.

Those paradigms not only apply to other companies, software and industries but also life in general. You can still have quality and be timely, that's the whole premise of agile, self organising, fully empowered dev teams.
There's no billions of $/£ on the line here, they aren't going to go bust by releasing something that might not be polished to a mirror sheen.

If you're arguing against incremental design / development and releasing, it's kind of arguing against common sense.
In fact Alex has really done that, it's just been slow and taken 12 years so far.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2022, 11:17:51 AM by Ryan390 »
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Amoebka

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2022, 10:55:23 AM »

From my customer perspective the game released years ago and now I'm just getting free updates because the dev is a maniac.  :D

"Feature complete" is a difficult thing to define, especially in games. Starsector has been playable, bug free, and fun for several years now. How much more content does it need before it's considered a "real" release? If Alex finally names a version 1.0, but later decides to add some more features, does that retroactively make the 1.0 "not a real release"? Doom (the 1993 one) keeps getting new official levels every time it's ported to somewhere, does that mean the game has been "in development" for 30 years?
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Ryan390

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #21 on: March 04, 2022, 10:57:15 AM »

From my customer perspective the game released years ago and now I'm just getting free updates because the dev is a maniac.  :D
Agree, he's awesome by the way.

"Feature complete" is a difficult thing to define, especially in games. Starsector has been playable, bug free, and fun for several years now. How much more content does it need before it's considered a "real" release?

Nail on the head, exactly. Personally I'd rather just see story completed, job done. Anything after that is a bonus, more ships, planets, maybe a sector? Who knows.
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David

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #22 on: March 04, 2022, 11:18:50 AM »

(With all due acknowledgement about how passive aggressive it would be to do this w/o lampshading it,)

It was my understanding that Alex also had a full time job, this was a side project, maybe that was the case and has changed now?

Alex works on this game full-time. It is his job.

If you are unsure about some aspect of development, you can ask.
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Ryan390

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #23 on: March 04, 2022, 11:21:56 AM »

(With all due acknowledgement about how passive aggressive it would be to do this w/o lampshading it,)

It was my understanding that Alex also had a full time job, this was a side project, maybe that was the case and has changed now?

Alex works on this game full-time. It is his job.

If you are unsure about some aspect of development, you can ask.

Last time I was active on the Forums Alex did have a full time job, but yes I did see your post.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2022, 11:25:39 AM by Ryan390 »
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Fireside

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #24 on: March 04, 2022, 11:23:35 AM »

Apologies but failing to see your point or relevance to software releasing. When you've worked in I.T corporate environments and multiple different teams with hundreds of experienced devs for 11 years, you start to know a thing or two and get a feeling of what works and what doesn't. I'm speaking purely from experience as a senior software engineer, (In terms of writing software and getting it out timely without sacrificing quality)

Well thing is your experience while relevant isn't the exact same.  Corporate I.T. environments with hundreds of developers and knowing a thing or two about what works there doesn't relate directly to solo game development for an indie producer.  But more to the point to make this easier I'll just quote what you've said that I was replying to.

As a dev, it's generally a bad idea to respond to threads like this, but... (here we go!)

It shouldn't be in a closely knit community or (IMO) ever an issue with any software release. This isn't Cyberpunk, it's not Stalker 2, It's not Starfield, you're not going to get corporately slammed or risk a billion $ share price tanking if you speak to the community.
If you was working for 2K, Rockstar, EA, Ubisoft etc.. It'd be a different story. The whole point of indie development teams having a stronger footing, than triple AAA software houses, is they are afforded the luxury of candidness and openness with their customers. Without significant financial ramifications and / or hitting deadlines.

Obviously CD Projekt Red didn't have that luxury, they released too much marketing, too many promises, too many deadline promises.. The game was a car crash on launch.
That's obviously how NOT to release software or run a software house. That's not happening here, not ever happened here, nor runs that risk. Again this isn't a corporation that sinks millions/billions into a title on marketing alone, let alone development.
I can imagine that is frustrating, when you're technically minded and you get dragged into meetings and requirements gathering, doing anything other than what you're really good at (development)
Had it myself over the years, being a developer in a medium/large company has it's downsides and it seems physically writing code is only a small part of the role.
Anyhow, thanks for sharing, that's good to hear and know, maybe a large part of the community doesn't access your source control repos, so we don't all see that activity.
It was my understanding that Alex also had a full time job, this was a side project, maybe that was the case and has changed now?

Bold emphasis added by me.  You specifically have talked about and questioned the communication with customers not just the development process/progress.  You then finish that last quote with a sentence that perfectly demonstrates the assumptions customers make that lead to misunderstandings and feelings of miscommunication.

Also:
It's obvious you can't / won't give a timeline, not really asking for that or even details of upcoming releases as I agree it would spoil the game.
You say this but have contradicted this multiple times, and the very premise of this post is wanting information you have acknowledged here that you know he can't/won't share (which is also a part of why I posted what I did about why companies might not communicate much until after things are done).
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Ryan390

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #25 on: March 04, 2022, 11:39:00 AM »

Well thing is your experience while relevant isn't the exact same.  Corporate I.T. environments with hundreds of developers and knowing a thing or two about what works there doesn't relate directly to solo game development for an indie producer.  But more to the point to make this easier I'll just quote what you've said that I was replying to.

That's where we disagree then because it is relevant, I can tell you're not a developer with that statement :) Everything I've said development wise can be applied to both areas. 
TDD for example is something that can work in both areas, when applied under the correct context, maybe look that up and tell me I'm wrong?

Bold emphasis added by me.  You specifically have talked about and questioned the communication with customers not just the development process/progress.  You then finish that last quote with a sentence that perfectly demonstrates the assumptions customers make that lead to misunderstandings and feelings of miscommunication.
I'm simply stating that early and often in terms of feedback always wins out. Big bang releases are generally something you should avoid. Again if you've never released software how can you argue otherwise?
In fact, Alex has released incrementally (since 2010), it's just taken a lot longer than would of liked. As Thaago stated, it's a glacial place, but it is what it is.

Also:
Quote from: Firesidelink=topic=24197.msg359921#msg359921 date=1646412864
You say this but have contradicted this multiple times, and the very premise of this post is wanting information you have acknowledged here that you know he can't/won't share (which is also a part of why I posted what I did about why companies might not communicate much until after things are done).

Not at all, you've clearly not carefully read all my posts. I said to David in a post I don't expect detailed announcements / spoilers but just a rough roadmap might of been nice.

- Balance Update
- Fixes
- Fixes
- Balance
- New Feature
- Story Progression

Etc.. It seems to me you're speaking from a customer service perspective, but you want to find contradictions to software development practises?
Happy for you to try, but like I said I've been there done it for enough years to know what works and what doesn't.

https://agilemanifesto.org/

-Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
-Working software over comprehensive documentation
-Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
-Responding to change over following a plan

There's far smarter people than me and you who have coined these ways of working, trust me :)
« Last Edit: March 04, 2022, 11:45:30 AM by Ryan390 »
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Fireside

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #26 on: March 04, 2022, 12:10:52 PM »

I'm not trying to contradict anything in software development.  As I said you were bringing up how communication should be done, and so I explained why I disagree with your PoV.  You're talking about communicating with customers.  Guess who does that?  Customer Service Representatives:)

Not at all, you've clearly not carefully read all my posts.
Ironic
Well thing is your experience while relevant isn't the exact same.  Corporate I.T. environments with hundreds of developers and knowing a thing or two about what works there doesn't relate directly to solo game development for an indie producer.  But more to the point to make this easier I'll just quote what you've said that I was replying to.

That's where we disagree then because it is relevant, I can tell you're not a developer with that statement :) Everything I've said development wise can be applied to both areas. 
TDD for example is something that can work in both areas, when applied under the correct context, maybe look that up and tell me I'm wrong?
For added emphasis:
Well thing is your experience while relevant isn't the exact same.
I literally said it was relevant.

It seems to me you're speaking from a customer service perspective
I did happen to say exactly that in my first post.



Moving on:
I'm simply stating that early and often in terms of feedback always wins out.
You said quite a bit more than that in what I quoted from you.

I don't expect detailed announcements
A roadmap is an announcement.

You keep talking about what works and what doesn't so I have to ask, what was the goal of your post?  Were you seeking information about the current state of affairs?  Or were you wanting to tell Alex how what he is doing is wrong?  The latter seems to be what you're being persistent with, even when discussing things with me; which is a side of your thread that I never commented on.  I will take the time to point out though that you are not acknowledging that Alex is a single person.  All the things you're referring to require multiple people, teams if you will.  This was also addressed by David when he said that the more time spent on all of the things you're talking about.  What works for teams of people is very different in some ways than what works for a solo game developer.  You said yourself it might be different in game development:
In terms of corporate level development (can't speak for the games industry, but I imagine it has the same paradigms)
Corporate software development =/= game development.  Multiple development teams =/= solo game developer.  Allow me to reiterate what I said to you earlier; while your experience is relevant it is not the exact same.  Some of the parallels you're drawing do not work.

And while the above addresses it I'll address it directly here:
Happy for you to try, but like I said I've been there done it for enough years to know what works and what doesn't.

https://agilemanifesto.org/

-Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
-Working software over comprehensive documentation
-Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
-Responding to change over following a plan

There's far smarter people than me and you who have coined these ways of working, trust me :)

One person can not do what multiple teams can in the same amount of time.  Trust me.  :)
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Ryan390

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #27 on: March 04, 2022, 12:23:50 PM »

Think my browser is going rouge, why is my edit spawning new posts  :o
« Last Edit: March 04, 2022, 12:52:17 PM by Ryan390 »
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Ryan390

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #28 on: March 04, 2022, 12:31:25 PM »

We may have to agree to disagree somewhat. however the stuff I've said definetly can (and probably does for some indies) apply to indie game development.
They are universal standards and principles that can be applied to all software development practises.

If I was to summarise my points:
- Solid Principles / Clean Code
- Incremental Releases
- Customer feedback and communication early
- Simplicity over obfuscation
- 'Rough' roadmap of what might be worked on (it can be cigarette packet 10 minute thought) With a caveat that it's probably inaccurate, that's fine.. We aren't robots.

Which I might remind you some of which mirror the agile manifesto:
https://agilemanifesto.org/

These concepts were designed to remove red tape and Chinese whispers and late feedback, improve code quality and try to make dev teams more efficient.
You don't have to use these methodologies, but then again you don't have to wear a seatbelt when driving, but I wouldn't advise it.. *shrug*

Do you honestly think requirements don't change during the lifecycle? They do.. So having a direct dialog between stakeholders / customers and devs is key.
We have customers at our place too, (millions in the UK who buy from AO) + internal stakeholders.. We don't sit in the dark with our headphones on churning out code. Not speaking to anyone.. Ok Alex might :) But he's a beast.

In a corporate environment you have to work collaboratively with multiple different departments and teams, including architecting and building the networking and security of each of the systems.
That's a necessity, but you're right, it's not always needed for a solo game dev where you're working on an isolated product with no cross cutting concerns.

But some indies will work like that (agile) and transfer their corporate skills to their game development environment, I know I would if I was a start-up small time company.

it's usually the people who role's dictate a layer between other deparments that sometimes get defensive over communication as they feel their role is threatened.
That also happened where I work as we used to have project managers and they really just became a pointless layer between the developers and stakeholders.
They all had to be let go in the end as they are being paid a wage and created a needless layer between the business and developers. Developers can actually tell stakeholders/customers what is possible and roughly how long it might take, because they are technically minded. PM's aren't going to have that knowledge to hand, or even business analysts.

A very important point to note that in terms of communication, nothing is worse than telling a customer they can have something at a certain time, then the devs turn around and say..Actually, It'll take much longer. :(
This used to happen all the time when we have a representative talking to customers, giving them basically false info and false estimations. Far better for a dev upfront to just deliver the truth.. Again talking from experience, this has been happening since 2011 where I work, thankfully we got a hold on it and phased out the red tape and b/s layer.

We kept the business analyst role as they could gather technical requirements and get forward ahead on upcoming meetings, leaving the devs to dev and only be brought in when technical knowledge or guidance was needed to make decisions.
Communication really is something that has to be simplified, we avoid chains of emails and red tape, just have a physical conversation with someone.
Manifesto Rule#1:  Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Manifesto Rule#3: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Bare in mind, our company is an online retail business, I.T is the driving force of the business, so dev input and common sense was the only thing which worked in the end.
What better dialog is there between customer and developer? It also depends on who you're customers are. We also have a call centre with hundreds of agents who help customers at home.

It's not odd for us to jump on a Microsoft Teams call and do a screen share (as developers) with an agent whos on the phone directly sorting out an issue.
I can't imagine anything worse, or anything more difficult than having a middle man relay messages between us and the agent, we just talk to people they are generally welcome the help. Job done, no layers needed.

In terms of Dev practises crossing both arenas:
To suggest anything other than that would be like saying: Ok Lewis Hamilton, You can drive an F1 car pretty good, supercars, sports cars, regular cars..
But I want you to get in this Peugeot 107 and forget all you're practises and principles because it won't apply here.

Well actually, it still does, a car is still a car.

In terms of what my goal was for the OP, just to spark a dialog, see where peoples heads where at. Mainly the dev's and appreciate Daves early response.
Also to find out Alex is apparently killing himself with 178k line changes (so I'll stop moaning), that's both good and worrying to know. :)

Appreciate you're time and chats too Fireside it's always good to see other people's perspectives.

« Last Edit: March 04, 2022, 12:50:28 PM by Ryan390 »
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Fireside

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Re: Vapourware?
« Reply #29 on: March 04, 2022, 12:36:54 PM »

I think you're right, we will have to agree to disagree here.  You keep putting words in my mouth, making assumptions, contradicting yourself, and to top it all off ignoring massive chunks of what I've said.

The suggest anything other than that would be like saying: Ok Lewis Hamilton, You can drive an F1 car pretty good, supercars, sports cars, regular cars..
But I want you to get in this Peugot 107 and forget all you're practises and principles because it won't apply here.

Well actually, it still does, a car is still a car.
You could almost say that it:

while relevant isn't the exact same.
as I have multiple times.

This conversation has gotten way off the rails, and most of what you're trying to debate with me has nothing to do with the original post or questions.  Nonetheless I'm glad you got the information you were after, enjoy your day mate.
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