Establishing an automatic patching system for a game can be quite the daunting task for any game developer. If you are distributing your game solely on game portals that offer client updates (such as IndieCity), then you have nothing to worry about. If you are selling your game direct, then that is a different story. Providing update patches can be easy enough, but how do your customers know the patch is available and how easy is it for them to access it? Optimally you will provide an automatic self-patching system, but that comes with its own set of problems. Especially for indie game developer, the options seem to either fall into inadequate to extremely expensive. Having direct control over the update process is extremely important to any developer, but so is keeping within budget to make that next great game. I recently met with Axel Blackert who made a customizable automatic patching system free of charge.
So what does AutoPatcher actually do? I allows developers to upload updates to an FTP server and check those against the client’s version. The process may sound complicated, but it is really quite simple. I worked with Axel over the past two weeks to incorporate some features into AutoPatcher and he has been extremely receptive to incorporating features and changes. Let me share some of the highlights that make this such an excellent tool:
- Option to either launch AutoPatcher first, which in turn runs the game or to use it as an independent update utility.
- Secure FTP information with an encrypted file system.
- Seamless integration. Unless there is an error (or lack of internet connection), users do not even know the update check was performed.
- If there is an update, users can choose to bypass the update and play the game instead (great if they are on a limited data plan or poor connection).
- It uploads your updates to the FTP for you, and includes changelog notes.
So what are the drawbacks? There really are very few. The main current drawback (I am going to ask for this feature) is for the AutoPatcher to update itself. This could provide some problems if the AutoPatcher had an error. The data for the FTP login information and game update is inlcuded in a data.sef file, which you distribute with the game. So what if you decide to migrate to a different server or change your password information? That could become problematic if the patcher was unable to update itself.
If you want more information, please check out Axel’s website on AutoPatcher here. Feel free to add comments and I will answer your questions to the best of my ability. Also you should follow him on twitter because he rocks.