Is HaxArena a myth?

Date: January 6, 2016 Posted by: Chris St. John In: Uncategorized

I’ve been spending some time playing HaxBall as “csj@haxarena.com”, and started to get a lot of questions. I’m sensing a fair amount of disdain: players either think HaxArena is an elaborate hoax, or are otherwise simply not convinced the game will be built in their lifetimes. We hear your concerns and we owe you an explanation.

Why is it taking so long?

HaxArena’s development team has undergone a few changes in its lifetime. The game has been built to proof-of-concept stage by at least two other separate teams (that I know of). The latest team built a working prototype of the game, and that’s what you’re seeing on the website at present, with a few small modifications by yours truly.

Progress has been painfully slow from past teams for one simple reason: there has been a disconnect between the project’s owner (Aaron) and its programmers. The programmers were not HaxBall players themselves, and there was a large time gap: the programmers were overseas. Because the communication was so light (emails once a week from an arms-length project manager), the programmers would work and Aaron would be underwhelmed with the result. The feedback cycle was slow, and there they were, months and months later, with little to show.

I started chatting with Aaron a few months ago when I noticed a room called HaxArena ← NEW HAXBALL! I was immediately interested because I had started a HaxBall replacement of my own as a pet project — here was an opportunity to work with somebody who was already established. Many conversations later, I got my hands on the previous work, and here we are. I will be your resident code monkey going forward, so buckle up; it’s going to be a fun year.

Current status

Currently, there is a working prototype of the game posted at play.haxarena.com. Because the game is far from finished, access is limited to invitees only. It uses only a single dedicated server located in Newark, USA. If you are fairly close to that area, and would like to have a look around, shoot me or Aaron an email and we can hook you up with a code — just don’t expect much to be polished.

Short term plan

My current effort is going into reaching more players with a playable experience. This includes two major efforts: a big code refactoring / architectural overhaul, and building support for multiple game servers that players choose between when they first log into the system. At present, the game suffers some noticeable jitter effects due to lag the farther you are away from our server, and this severely limits the number of players we can support at this time. After building in the support for multiple servers, and spinning up more dedicated servers in different parts of the world, we will open it up to a wider audience.

I (cautiously) hope to have this ready in the next few weeks, say late January.

After that, I will be switching my attention to features that are lacking from the prototype: chat, game timers, admin functions (kicking/banning, assigning teams), loading maps, setting game parameters (time/score limits).

Long term plan

That depends on you! I’ve laid out a lot of ideas that I want to add to HaxArena, but we need to hear from you for more ideas, or how important you think the various features are. Our efforts will largely be shaped by your feedback, so please keep it coming.

Please don’t ask me when the game will be done. It will never be “done”. I intend to work on the game continuously and publish regular updates; such is the beauty of web development. In any event, I will be posting regular updates to this blog to keep you informed about our progress and immediate plans.

Summary

I hope this sheds some light on the HaxArena story. I’ve had a great time working on this game so far, and I’m only getting started. My vision for HaxArena is grand indeed and I look forward to collaborating with the community on its future direction.

csj and the HaxArena team

31 thoughts on “Is HaxArena a myth?

  • teoole says:

    I would like to be a beta tester , i m from Greece thanks!

  • KAZ says:

    Hi, i want be a beta-tester. Im from Poland

  • Uygar Yalcin says:

    Hello I can be a beta tester. I’m from Turkey and I play Haxball since 3 years but I’m bored because Haxball is unsatisfactory and very elementary. I want some things. New trick system (Like Ronaldinho) manuel bar system and different choice; short pass, long pass and shoot. Stamina; move, run and modified run. When player slow down and relax the stamina was refill (Not full) but when player run while stamina less player’s speed is very slow and refill in long time and if player always run player was injured. Champions League Stadium and ball. Haxarena’s special maps. The most important is Real Soccer. Game intelligence decide which team use throw in and corner or goal kick. It is very important. Extra time and penalty shootout. Foul and card system; Yellow Card and red card. Offside system. Goalkeeper system; one player was goalkeeper and if goalkeeper touch ball out of penalty area it’s foul and it necessary red card. Weather conditions affect game and room admin choose weather. Night match. Team cheat. We have create our banned list via nickname and IP adress. All nicknames must have password. We create account only 2 times. I’m professional Haxball player and most of professional Haxball players need this innovation because these things are add realism in Haxarena.

    • Hi Uygar,

      Thanks for your detailed suggestions! Let me address them in turn:

      For starters, I will be leaving the core gameplay of HaxBall alone. A general impression I get from players is that HaxBall is great because it is elegant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elegance): despite being simple it contains a lot of depth. We will experiment with modifying the gameplay for variant games in later iterations, but it’s not our #1 priority at the moment.

      It is on our roadmap to properly support “custom” games like Real Soccer. The priority of it will depend on how many people prefer to play it instead of normal HaxBall. As regards fouls/cards, one of the most elegant features of HaxBall is that since players are modeled as simple circles with some mass, a foul system as can be found in human sports is simply not necessary in HaxBall. The rules about what would be considered a foul are difficult to articulate even in English and generally include a third party referee whose opinion plays a key role.

      Team-only chat is an interesting idea, and is noted on my backlog.

      We are also planning to explore the range of visual options offered by our front-end game engine, to support things like night games or weather options. But, as noted above, it remains to be seen whether they will have a discernible effect on gameplay.

      • Uygar Yalcin says:

        Do you think are you added my opinions in Haxarena? (It soon in doesn’t matter) If you added it most of Haxball players come Haxarena and leave Haxball (Especially playing Haxball for a long time). New Things that I suggest it: If stamina decreases at the same rate passes’ and shoots’ are misses and soften. When home team start attack the fans are get crowd effect but when away team start attack the fans are get boo. The fans in stadiums and we see it but outside playground. Home team and Away team should to effect match. Adding like official stadiums. Official scoreboards (Premier League, Champions League etc.). Official billboards (We feel like we play football stadium not basic Haxball stadium). We should long time goal celebrations not kick off in a short time. If you want to realize Haxball players Haxarena need to be different. (Haxball’s most played country is Turkey and I’m talking playing Haxball long times ago players and they want to newness; so I note down they wish and I convey you they aren’t only my claims, they are a lot of Haxball players wish and I expect you affirm our wish. We want that we feel realism game and feel professional game not very simple game (Haxarena must be different to Haxball otherwise anybody playing Haxarena because most players still play Haxball and doesn’t come Haxarena)

        • Uygar Yalcin says:

          Oops I forget this! Player rankings in match and in room and we see who player of the match

        • Hi Uygar,

          These are all excellent suggestions for increasing player immersion, and using Phaser we should be able to achieve them in time. Our basic strategic direction is like this:

          1. Replicate HaxBall. Get the opinions of experts and early adopters, and refine it continuously.
          2. Build value-added features, to get more players.

        • Uygar Yalcin says:

          I’m raring to Haxarena’s beta start time. Thank you 🙂 Have a nice day.

  • Tony says:

    Hello, i wanna test HaxArena too, im from Russia

  • chenko says:

    Hi dude, I want to be a beta tester, good luck to HaxArena staff from Argentina.

  • oscar says:

    – Does this game use WebRTC for the multiplayer?

    – Another thing I’ve noticed about Haxball is that there doesn’t seem to be any client-side entity interpolation. I mean, the client doesn’t seem to buffer the movement of remote players before displaying them. Hence, you see very erratic ball movement at higher pings. If you have 200 ms of lag, the ball will appear to instantly teleport forward when another person kicks it, whereas if commands from the server were delayed by 200 ms, then the movement of remote players would seem smooth, but delayed. “The bee dance” is another artifact of this: if you have high ping and you watch another player as he trills the left-and-right keys on his keyboard, then, to you, it looks like he is waggling back and forth very quickly, I imagine, because the client-prediction code is extrapolating from very recent values (i.e., movement that are used immediately upon receipt). You can see this for yourself if you open up two haxball windows on the same screen, set one to 500 ms of handicap, and watch it as you waggle your player on the other window.

    Nevertheless, I wonder if you plan to replicate that sort of interpolation-less behaviour in HaxArena. Even though entity interpolation would make the movement of remote players look smoother, it comes at the price of responsiveness. For example, even if you’re lagging, you know how a ball is going to travel as soon as you hear the ball kick sound, because you can see the angle at which the kicker has been lined up behind the ball. And it’s better to hear that ball kick sound right away, than wait 100 ms for some interpolation scheme, I think.

    Not trying to be a backseat programmer, but I think that the network code has a huge implementation on the feel of the game.

    • Hi oscar,

      HaxArena is built on node.js with socket.io for communication, which uses Websockets, not WebRTC.

      We have experimented with client-side interpolation to reduce jitter effects, but I observed the same thing as you: when there is a laggy connection to the server and an update comes in that displaces an object (whether it’s me, another player, or the ball), I found it to be _more_ jarring when the object slid into place over a length of time rather than instantly teleporting there. So for the time being I’ve disabled client-side interpolation.

      As the networking characteristics of the game are my current focus, I was planning to devote my next article to it, but your question beat me to it. 🙂 Look out for that article and do provide your comments.

  • tito76 says:

    I’m ready to provide to you all my 30 years of gaming experience 🙂

    Meanwile, here a solution for the greatest problem of HaxBall: the kick!
    Maybe not everybody knows about it: kicking the ball nearest to your pod produces a stronger shot.
    You can notice it also in Ball2D, a clone of Haxball. In that game you can hold pressed the kick button, but as same the shot results slower compared when button is pressed nearest the pod.

    By fixing a standard shot power, also the implementation of “holding button” can be a good thing, especially for putting at the some level all the players, instead of disadvantage who can’t press button much rapdly.

    I’d like also a variant without button, like Punaball (a mod of TurboSliders, see it on YT) or PongPongBall (www.chrisweihu.com)

    • Hi there,

      Yes. The kick. You guys are getting ahead of me with your comments, I was planning to float an idea around kicking in another post to get your feedback. 🙂

      TEASER: Holding the X button will produce a rapid-fire kicking motion at some interval, say, 100ms. (Please hold your comments on this topic until I write that article, thank you!)

  • ene says:

    Finally some good news, keep it going guys.

    gl hf

  • Mehmet says:

    Hi i want be a beta tester of HaxArena im playing haxbal from 5 year and i want to be a member this revolution im from Greece.

  • Manderigon says:

    Hello! Congratulations Chris, good job! I would like to be a beta tester. I am from Poland. Can i receive an invite code? 🙂

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