The current incarnation of the GoldFire Network was released just about 5 years ago. Since then, our studio has undergone significant change, expanding our portfolio of products and growing our team from one to five. The web itself has also seen an incredible transformation as it comes ever closer to blurring the lines between websites and native applications, which is something we've always pushed for at GoldFire Studios.
We believe that today's launch of GoldFire 2.0 is yet another step in that direction. We've taken everything we've learned over the last half-decade and have rolled it into what we see as a social gaming revolution. The vision has always been to enable truly meaningful interactions between people all around the world, and we are now better poised than ever to make that goal a reality.
Cross Platform & Mobile
The first step was to go truly cross platform so that the features of the platform and the games themselves could be used/played on any device. It was this motivation that drove many of the design decisions for GoldFire 2.0. The experience is still fantastic on large screens, but we put a lot of effort into crafting an equally engaging experience on mobile as well.
This isn't limited to GoldFire 2.0. We've also spent months updating CasinoRPG to be fully mobile compatible. This isn't a stripped-down version of the game either. We've managed to fit every casino game, mission and casino editing tool into your average smartphone resolution. We surprised even ourselves with how well the experience on mobile works as more than just a companion to the desktop-sized game.
This release isn't just a big update to the platform, it is a complete rewrite from the ground up. Many of the same features are included, but they've all been rethought in every way to elevate your gameplay experience.
The most noticeable change is the new toolbar. Previously, this ran along the bottom of the screen and had limited capabilities. The new toolbar runs along the right side of the screen and gives you access to 100% of the GoldFire 2.0 features. Not only does the vertical orientation allow for significantly more freedom to display all of the information you might want, it also means you can interact with everything like chat and forums without ever leaving the game you are playing.
In addition to having every feature at your fingertips, it is now 100% live updating. In 1.0 we had a few live updating features like chat, but it was finicky and limited in many ways. Our new architecture has allowed us to design a system that keeps everything updated in real-time, including online status, social feed posts, forums and even the views counter on forum threads.
Private chat has always been a popular feature of the platform, but it was also the piece that was in most need of an overhaul. We know how important this feature is to everyone, so we went all out to make this into something everyone could get excited about.
The new chat feature closely resembles a messaging app on your phone. Instead of having limited tabs along the toolbar, you now get a full chat history view. Clicking on a conversation gives you a full screen height view of that conversation, making it much easier to visually parse. You can also add more people to a chat to turn it into a group chat -- one of our most requested features since day one!
If this wasn't enough, we've also added in a variety of rich media improvements. There is a full emoji keyboard with over 1000 emojis available to choose from. In addition, you can directly upload images and embed videos from YouTube or Vimeo.
The old forums weren't necessarily bad, they were just hard to get to. They are now a first-class citizen with their own tab on the toolbar. The forums are also fully live-updating, which makes them more like a public chat thread than a traditional forum. Each forum is grouped by game and then tags are used rather than sub-categories. All of the same features are included from before, but everything has been streamlined and modernized to provide the kind of experience you'll actually look forward to being a part of.
The previous social feed was also something that was both difficult to get to and half-baked in its design. The new system is built into the toolbar as part of the forums panel and more closely resembles a GoldFire-specific Twitter. Posting is made easier with the same rich text editor from chat and visually parsing the data has received the same treatment. In addition, there are now automated posts for major gameplay events like opening a casino or winning a jackpot in CasinoRPG.
The new leaderboard tab now gives you a fantastic overview of your current standing in every category. No longer will you have to click through each list and toggle to yourself for each and every ranking you are interested in. If you want to dig down further, just click on a category and get an infinitely scrolling view of the full list. You can still jump to your position as well as filter by friends or by all-time/monthly ranking (this means that almost every leaderboard now comes with a monthly ranking, not just the overall ranking).
Switching between your games is now easier than ever! Just click your avatar on the toolbar and all of your connected games and relevant data is displayed. Clicking on a game will take you there instantly without even reloading the page. You also have access to your platform settings and profile view from the launcher.
You can view your full notification history from the launcher, grouped by game. In addition, new popup notifications will appear in the bottom right of the screen (this feature can be turned off in settings). Notifications are now smarter, so clicking on one will perform the relevant action, such as taking you to the forum post or the related game.
Player profiles show largely the same information as before, but they've been streamlined and expanded to better get an overview of that person. As with everything else, it is also fully live updating, from their social feed down to their list of medals. You can also see each player's leaderboard rankings by going to their profile and looking at their list of games.
GoldFire 1.0 introduced a concept known as GoldFire Gold. This was a premium virtual currency that could be purchased on the platform and then used to buy upgrades, items, etc on any of the games. While this sounded great in theory, the reality we found was that it needlessly complicated the process and made game balance increasingly difficult with intertwined virtual economies.
So, we've made the decision to do away with GoldFire Gold and instead build an easy-to-use storefront that each of the games can use independently, sort of like you would experience with one of the app stores (if you had a balance on your account, you should have gotten an e-mail about how this is being handled, but if you have a question you can always contact us).
The store is now context-aware to the game you are currently playing, and will list the different things you can buy. We've also got all of the same purchasing options as before (Credit Card, PayPal, Bitcoin and Xsolla). However, the Credit Card experience has received a significant overhaul with full support for storing and using multiple cards (through Stripe, we don't store or touch any payment data). You can now easily manage your cards directly from the toolbar in addition to seeing a full purchase history. We've also added in subscription support to make buying things like CasinoRPG Citizenship easier.
If you aren't the technical type, then you can safely skip this section before I put you to sleep. However, we are very much into open-source and always like to at least share some details about how we achieve different aspects of our projects.
For GoldFire 2.0, we did something we've never done before -- we used a front-end framework. React and Angular are all the rage these days, but for our use-case they seemed too big and bulky. With GoldFire 2.0 being a thin wrapper around our games, we had to make sure we weren't stealing any computing resources from the games themselves, so we landed on the fantastic Vue.js framework.
Vue is not something anyone on our team had any experience with, but in less than six months we were able to quickly get up to speed and build a large-scale web application while still developing updates for our other games in parallel. Vue has been so great because it enabled us to develop at a rapid pace while also keeping our code lightweight and performant thanks to its virtual DOM implementation.
Beyond the frontend, we used a similar stack as before, comprising of Node.js on the server, a combination of MongoDB and Redis for datastore and HAProxy for load balancing. We also made significant use of some of our own open-source libraries, howler.js and democracy.js as well as a plethora of other projects that would require a whole other blog post to outline.