Monday, 15 July 2013

Letters from the Engine Room #2


As promised, here’s your second installment of Letters from the Engine Room, where we pull back the curtains for a little peek behind the scenes.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, not just for Playfire but for the Green Man Gaming team, too, who just held a mega-sale. Here at Playfire HQ our Engineering guru, Lee, has been tightening the last few nuts and bolts, ready for the server migration, while I’ve been working with DocD2 on improving the Playfire Vulcan client.

“But why are you concentrating on Playfire Vulcan and not the website?” I hear you cry! Well, in the simplest of terms –  you can’t have one without the other. Before we build upon and add new features to Playfire we’ve got two very important objectives. The first is to improve the stability and response time for Playfire – Lee is working on that part. The second is to improve the accuracy of the game data gathering, and that’s where Playfire Vulcan comes in.

Now, there is an important team of wheel-running rodents powering playfire.com. Their task is to gather and churn out game data for all of your accounts, but there’s only so much Jerry the Gerbil can do. We can get some more wheels and more rodents to run them, but Playfire Vulcan is like us giving your own personal hamster.

Playfire Vulcan only gathers the data relating to your little ecosystem of gaming accounts, and it does this more often that website ever can. The end result means that your Playfire profile ends up being pretty much bang-on and accurate at all times.

We realise it’s not been without a few hitches along the way though, but that’s beta for you. Once Playfire Vulcan is in a place that we’re happy with, we hope to start adding features that extend its core functionality and begin offering features that the website can never provide.

But that’s not to say the website doesn’t get it fair share of love and attention – oh no! We’ve had meeting after meeting (the good kind) on what to work on next. These are the group gatherings of our finest minds! We discuss what takes priority, how long it will take, and what really is the ultimate tea-dunking biscuit (it’s ginger biscuits - end of!). As a result, Joncol and myself have been putting pen to paper, writing design documents - well typing them up, my handwriting is terrible – and drawing mock designs using basic shapes and stick figures.

While we put these together, another member of our engineers has been making some backend improvements to Playfire. Here’s Alex to indulge you in more fun-filled metaphors:


Hi all,

In the last 2 weeks we been lucky enough to complete a sprint [development cycle – Ben] and improve parts of the Playfire platform that we hope you’ll begin to notice while you browse the site. In this post I’m going to focus specifically on a recent upgrade for Django.

If you are not familiar with it, Django is a web framework based on the Python programming language. Basically it’s like having a toolbox of extra functionality on top of a typical Python installation, which makes web development much easier.

Imagine that you have a hammer (Python). It’s quite nice because you can use it to build closets with nails and such, but what if you had one of these?




An Auto-Hammer. If you know how to use it you will improve your closet-building performance by over 9000! So, in the context of our example, DJango is our Auto-Hammer and the closets we’re building are Playfire components.

Now that you’ve got a better idea of what we’re talking about, the components we’ve made using Django have been upgraded to the most recent version [No small task! – Ben]. Playfire was born only a few years ago, but web development is moving incredibly quickly. By upgrading we’re giving ourselves the right tool for the right job. It allows us to build what we need even quicker, plus as an added bonus we fixed a few issues too. No longer are we suffering endless alarms about memory leaks!

We’ve got another BIG related change scheduled soon but that’s enough for now. We’ll we will keep you posted, don't you worry!

PS: If you think that you want to know more, we are hiring. Feel free to contact us, and in the interview process we are going to explain to you what's going on.



So, there you have it, lots of good news. If you’ve got a question for myself, Lee or Alex, feel free to leave it in the comments below.

In the meantime, I should get back to drawing stick figures.

Ben, Joncol, and the rest of the Playfire team.