In June 2021, we announced that we would stop all content development and product care to focus instead on mobile development. Understandably, this has caused frustration within the Rail Nation community, with many people wanting answers due to the lack of information shared or the feeling of being kept in the dark. For that, we sincerely apologise and will do our utmost to keep you updated more often, starting with this communication.
This post aims to give you, the players, more transparency as to why it’s taking so long, why we need to focus on mobile and, more importantly, when you can expect to see the new app for Rail Nation.
Why is it taking so long?
Firstly, the way we originally developed the Rail Nation app was perfect for its time, but now it is very outdated according to current industry standards. Consequently, the service providers we use, such as Google and the Apple Store, will soon stop providing support for the technology, as these providers are switching to app bundles. This means the app needs to be completely re-coded to support a new app client. Our current client is based on old Flash code, and to be compliant with the new app bundle technology, we need to move to HAXE Mobile.
Secondly, there is a strain on time and resources. Right now, we only have one full-time dedicated member of the Rail Nation team responsible for re-coding the entire game. However, we do have approximately three non-mobile developers supporting where possible. When they are not collaborating with the mobile team, the three non-mobile developers continuously work on quality assurance, server maintenance and scenario roll-out. At the beginning of the year, we had three dedicated mobile developers supporting the mobile app. However, over the course of the year, we have seen this number reduced to one. When you consider the added factor that hiring developers with the skills to work on HAXE Mobile has proven to be near impossible, you can get an impression of why everything is taking such a long time. As the situation currently stands, we are dependent on this one developer not only to work on this re-coding, but also to continue to maintain the current mobile app with all the fixes and updates we need to implement.
Finally, Google and their upcoming restrictions have caused us significant delays. Google wants to redesign how they host their apps on the Google Play Store. Unfortunately for us, the client that Rail Nation currently uses will no longer be compatible with Google’s planned redesign. This gives us a far shorter time frame to take care of the updates Rail Nation needs, hence our earlier statement on needing to shift resources to get this done on time.
Even though we’ve outlined the main reasons for the delays, we can confidently say that development is currently on schedule, and we are making significant progress. Nevertheless, Rail Nation must adapt and evolve to more modern technologies and processes. We will continue to work on this to give you, the players, the best experience possible.
With this transparency on the situation, we hope we have provided the much-needed clarity and understanding that you, the players, wanted. Now let’s move on to why we need to focus on mobile development in the first place.
Why do we need to focus on mobile development?
Simply put, our technology is getting too old, and Rail Nation needs to adapt. In the third quarter of 2022, Google and Android will no longer continue to support what we currently have. So, there is a limited time frame to get this done; otherwise, Rail Nation cannot continue to be updated.
We’re fully aware of the long list of bugs that need to be resolved. However, due to the reasons mentioned above, we’re working on a very tight deadline and need to be as efficient as possible to ensure the update is as successful as it can be.
To be very clear: once mobile development is complete and we’ve successfully updated Rail Nation, there will still be bugs, even though many have been fixed. The most important thing right now is to give Rail Nation the necessary update to ensure we can continue updating the game, fixing bugs and bringing out new content for the future for you all to enjoy. Soon after its release, we intend to have a bug-fixing phase and a series of updates.
Why are you still releasing content (career engine upgrades and new workers)?
Simply put: it’s because those updates were achievable without impacting mobile development. We have one mobile developer, but our other developers were still available to support the creation of minor content updates. To give you some context, the new “Entry of Legends” worker update was initially planned to be a more significant, more developer-intensive, new map/scenario. However, due to the mobile development, we needed to reduce it to something a lot simpler and easier to implement. We also have a long list of new features and content plans, which are all on hold because of the impacts on mobile development.
It’s similar to the career engine upgrades; the development effort was minor and had no impact on mobile development.
Provided the impact on mobile development is slight or negligible, we can still work on small content updates and bug fixes (which we continue to do). But the majority of content and bug fixes that both we and the players want require significant developer input, which would delay the completion of mobile development.
Even with the focus on mobile development, it’s important for us to continue bringing new content to the game on a small scale, to keep the game challenging and enjoyable for you, the players. This is also why we run our focus groups and surveys – to make sure that whatever small updates we planned were appealing to the players.
When can you expect the new app?
You can expect the beta app for the Google Play Store at the beginning of the first quarter of 2022. Joining the beta will require participants to sign up via a survey, which will be sent out towards the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. There are no limits on participation, so we would encourage as many of you on Android to sign up as possible. The more people who participate, the more we can fine-tune and polish Rail Nation to be the best it possibly can be. We’re focusing on the Android player base first as it is the largest, and the Google beta services are currently more efficient to use. The decision regarding an iOS beta is still to be made and will also depend on the results of the Android beta app.
The beta will run for approximately three months for compatibility testing and to ensure it works on as many devices as possible. Once the beta is live, mobile development would be advanced enough to shift focus to product care, bug fixes, UX, onboarding and server support etc.
Thanks to the beta testing feature Google provides, you’ll be able to opt-in and out of the beta whenever you like. Essentially, you can log in and play as you usually would without having to commit your account to playing only on the beta app. However, there will be an option in the beta to “opt out” and return to the non-beta version of the app. So, for example, if you report an issue, you could opt out of the beta and continue to play outside until it’s fixed and then opt back in again.
So long as no significant setbacks are identified in the beta phase, the plan is for full release within the first quarter of 2022. The released version will be the base form of the app, which will be functional and playable depending on the beta updates we implement. However, we intend to roll out a patch soon after release for any issues identified in the beta that require additional work. Overall, the new app will be an improvement on the previous one. We still expect some old issues to be present, which we intend to resolve as part of our product care updates. Of course, as with anything like this, new bugs may exist, and we will be working hard to identify them and fix them as and when they come up.
We know this is a lot to digest, but we hope this overview and transparency on the matter has given you all some much-needed clarity. We appreciate your continued patience and will update you as soon as we can tell you more.
Your Rail Nation Team