Back in April, I posted about an upcoming transition with the GameMaker Community Forums. YoYoGames had announced that they were going to start a new forum, move off of IPBoard as its forum software, and give the community something fresh and modern that would be better. The old forums were to briefly become unavailable, and then would be restored in a read-only format, to preserve the history and knowledge they contain.
This was to have taken about two weeks. It’s over a month later now, and we still haven’t seen a new GMC forum. The old forums have been archived, and are available now at gmc.yoyogames.com, after being completely offline for over two weeks. YYG have not spoken much about the new forums since they announced their original plan, which has left me wondering what’s going on.
At this point, it’s difficult to characterize the transition as anything but a failure. But as to why the failure, and when things will be coming back, we’re left to speculate. I will, however, offer a few criticisms:
Archiving the old forums should have taken place instantly, not taken more than two weeks
I don’t have any insider information to justify why the transition from an active state to a read-only, logins disabled state took more than two weeks to accomplish, and I’ve never managed an IP board site before, but for this to require the site be completely offline for more than two weeks, it must have been quite a broken implementation design. It should have been very simple, and possible to achieve nearly instantaneously: disable login for non-administrator accounts. Demote non-essential administrator accounts, such that only YYG Staff directly involved in the forum migration can still log in and manage things.
Boom. Done. No one can post anymore; the site is in a read-only state for all users but the administrators. No downtime need be incurred.
So why did this take more than two weeks? I’d love to know.
Taking the old forum down should not have been done until the new forum was ready to go
Again, I don’t know why YYG did things the way they did, and it’s possible there’s reasonable explanations for it, but I just can’t imagine any. Normally, web development is done by having a production environment, which is the live web site exposed to the world, and a development environment, which is accessible to developers and operations folks. Development takes place in the development environment until all systems are go, at which point the site is migrated to the production server. Normally this migration is something that can be accomplished within minutes, or seconds. It might well take weeks or months to get to the point where the migration is ready to happen, but the actual migration doesn’t have to take longer than a few minutes if planned properly, unless the migration is truly massive, which I cannot imagine the GMC forums new software qualifying, since they had announced that the new forums would start off empty. I understand they need time to test and configure the new forum software, test it for security vulnerabilities, and so forth but all of that could have been — and should have — been done in a test environment well before the old forums were taken down.
Remaining quiet when previously-announced deadlines slipped disrespects GM:S users
When it became apparent that the transition was not happening according to plan, and this impacted the publicly announced timetable, someone at YYG should have handled communicating the news to the user community. To date, I have not seen any announcements explaining what’s going on. No explanation of why the release date has slipped, no announcement of a new date. Even if they have no idea how long it will be, there should have been some kind of communication. Without this, it creates an impression that YYG does not value the forums or the community that uses it. This is surely not true, but the lack of transparency here is inexplicable and harms YYG’s reputation. Considering the huge efforts they had made over the last 5 years with branding GameMaker: Studio as a professional-caliber development tool, and making numerous improvements to give that branding credibility, this is a serious stumble on their part.
Because of these failures, GameMaker users have been left without an official community for over a month, and have had to make do with alternatives such as gamedev.net, Reddit and Facebook. This can’t be good for YoYoGames’ reputation or the GameMaker brand. The community’s self-support for GameMaker has long been one of it’s greatest assets, and YoYoGames seems to be acting as though they do not understand this. I only hope that they can fix whatever problems have been preventing them from moving forward and complete the release of the new forums.