June 2018 Development Update

Hey, Beacon updates have been pretty few and far between, haven't they? I wanted to take a few minutes to share what's going on, though I'm sure you've read this same basic article from other developers.

Delays, personal life, blah blah blah. I know. Bear with me.

My Near Term Goal for Beacon

Beacon is in a pretty good spot right now, but the interface has not really grown well to accommodate all the new features. For a while, I've been working on a major user interface update for Beacon to resolve current issues and leave room to grow in the future.

This update must launch before Ark: Extinction is released on November 6th. I've set my deadline for October 6th, though I hope to be ready sooner than that. There's not really a ton left to do. I've put my todo list on GitHub for all to see.

Should I fail to hit this deadline, I can add the Extinction UI elements to the existing version of Beacon. I keep two branches of development active for a reason. I don't particularly want to add to the master branch, because there will be annoying merge conflicts with the development branch, but if I have to do it, I'll do it.

My Long Term Goal for Beacon

There are things I want to do with Beacon, but let's be honest, Ark is nearing the end of its life. I have doubts that I'll actually get to these goals. Ideally, though, Beacon would only require tweaks to support the inevitable Ark 2. So maybe I'll work towards these anyway.

I want Beacon to support more configuration options. Preferably, all of them.

I also want to create a mobile version, with all the config options supported. But I'll be honest with you right now, by mobile I mean iOS. This is because I'm an iOS user myself, I don't have any Android devices, and I have no Android dev tools. The tool I use to write Beacon is called Xojo and it supports iOS development, but not Android. However, Xojo's Android support is coming, so Beacon for Android is not out of the realm of possibility but I am not promising it either.

Why Development Has Been Slow

It's a number of factors these days. Only one of them is even slightly surprising.

  1. I don't play Ark as much, mostly because my group has moved on to other games. We come back from time to time though. Ever since Ark's content drops have slowed down, keeping player interest has been difficult. During the early access, Ark would get major updates roughly every month and keep us coming back.
  2. I'm a father of two young girls who demand lots of play time.
  3. The older of those two started school this past fall, which requires I get up earlier in the morning, which requires I go to bed earlier. I've basically lost 3 hours a day that I used to be able to develop Beacon in. Trying to balance dev time and play time is much harder with more than half of my free time gone each night.
  4. And extended family health issues.

It's mid-June and I still don't have my pool open and the yard is looking more than a bit unkempt. So finding time for Beacon is pretty hard. Summer vacation starts next week, so ideally I'll be able to devote a few more hours each week to Beacon and get back on track.

Website Update

On the quest to build a better Beacon, it became obvious the website needs some adjustments. So I'm pleased to launch this refreshed website for Beacon.

Here's a rundown of what I've created recently.

Browse & Build Configs

A surprising number of users are unable to actually run Beacon due to only having access to a mobile device or a Chromebook, so they come to the Discord channel looking for somebody to build an ini file for them.

The problem with this is Beacon needs to know a bit about the destination server to do its job correctly. It would also be nice for these users to select files on their own, rather than being at the mercy of a random stranger.

To assist these users, it is now possible to browse the community documents right on the website. There are filters to show only documents compatible with certain maps, and even a way to exclude documents that are not compatible with the console versions of Ark.

This browser will also create a Game.ini just like Beacon does. Just set the Max Dino Level, and if the document supports multiple maps, choose the maps to be included. Then users can choose to either create a brand new Game.ini, paste their current Game.ini, or upload their current Game.ini.

The online document browser is a fantastic way for users with restricted devices to get in on the custom loot party.

Improved Mod Support

To date, not a single mod author has listed their creation with Beacon. That's unfortunate. Part of this has to do with the gateway to entry, which will be improved. In the future, it will be possible to create an account on this website and register a mod without downloading Beacon. I'm simply not ready for that yet.

In the meantime, I've prepared a guide explaining the steps and options available to mod authors.

On top of that, the new mods page lists all currently supported mods. Ark's official DLC's are listed as mods too for organizational purposes. Clicking a mod shows all engrams and loot sources provided by that mod. This mod support also improves the document browser, as it can now identify exactly which mods each document uses, as long as that mod is registered with Beacon.

With this improved mod support comes a nice surprise. Structures Plus and Primitive+ engrams are now officially included in Beacon's database!

Comprehensive Search

The sidebar now includes a search field. Just type, it'll find stuff. Help articles, mods, engrams, community documents - most of the website can be found with this search field.

And Finally, This Blog

Hopefully I'll put out developer updates every so often for the benefit of those who don't talk to me on Discord.