This week at Altair, we put November into focus.
Since Naoki Yoshida announced on a stage, dressed in Reaper cosplay, that the release date for the expansion to the "critically acclaimed massively multiplayer online role-playing game" Final Fantasy XIV would be November 19th, I promptly lit a fire.
It's been working as the team has been moving forward in a confident (but slightly terrified) direction towards a November release date for what we're calling Season 0. But what is Season 0? Why are we even calling it a season? So today, we're going to attempt to lay that out for you.
What's in a name?
What do you think of when you hear the word "agile"? For those of you who just groaned, we feel you. Cody, our CTO, and I have been working in the tech industry for almost three decades combined. One of the first subjects we talked about last year was not strictly following the agile development methodology. For the uninitiated, agile software development generally follows the practice of working in 2-week intervals or "sprints."
While this method can and has worked for companies since it became popular in 2001, there are effects on the product and the end-user that we didn't appreciate. One of the most egregious examples of this is roadmap prioritization.
Any given company has a slew of work to take on at any given time, which can change at any given time. For example, when YouTube Gaming was rumored to release in 2015, Twitch's resources were reallocated to anticipate a successful launch. In the blink of an eye, management requested features and threw them to the top of the roadmap. And so, we sprinted. Unfortunately, a lot of things fall by the wayside when you're always sprinting. I'll never forget looking at our roadmap for Twitch Chat. Some features sat near the bottom of the list—features that creators I personally knew had wanted, features that only required a few hours of an engineer's time—and never saw the light of day. Well, either that or they took upwards of 7 years to surface.
Altair: Oracle of Seasons
All of this is the reality of the development world. But Cody and I weren't convinced that there wasn't another way. So we looked at a model that we liked from the gaming world, the concept of "patch cycles" or "seasons."
Seasons allowed companies to have a more predictable schedule around when new releases happened and what would be released. What this brought was consistency. Not only to the messaging itself but the timing of that messaging. Features were slated in neat, 3-month intervals. Communication was consistent, and players had a better idea of what to expect from a season, even if parts had to be delayed. Compare this to an agile world, where companies seldom update users about upcoming features until they blog about them. Users are left in the dark and at the whims of the sprint.
We wanted predictability, not only for our users but for us as well. We wanted to live in 3- or 4-month intervals, not 2-week ones. Heaven forbid somebody wanted to take a well-earned vacation, but that's a subject for another day.
So let's talk about our debut season; let's say that Altair released on... November 15th. What does the Season of the Visionary entail?
Wait, what's a visionary? Can I eat it?
If you've been following Altair's development since the beginning, we've been supported by folks we call Visionaries. These people chose to help us before we launched and were willing to fund our development by throwing $5 or $10 our way via Givebutter. In return, we gave them direct access to us via a Discord, a Visionary badge on their profile upon launch, and the ability to reserve their username. More on that later.
These are also benefits we provide to our Wefunder investors.
Streaming's an expensive business to get into. Not only that, we don't want to die on day one, as it's not a good look for a new service. So scratch throwing wide the streaming gates on day one.
Season 0 is like Day 0 at a convention (remember those? 😭). Everything's still getting set up; people can get early access to see what everything looks like before the general public is let in the next day. This is the stage where we can make sure we can stand before we walk and that we can walk before we run. Multi-factor authentication by default, video, chat, discovery, moderation, and payments are all features we're aiming to have by November because that's what you've come to expect of us. So do we dare say it'll be a beta? Yeah, but we won't make a point of abusing the term.
A lot of new services use tactics like waitlists to scale up in a more manageable fashion. That's especially important for a streaming service like ours. However, the waitlist strategy doesn't work for Altair. It makes zero sense to have a waitlist to register for the service when our mission literally says: Empowering communities to create healthfully. We want creators to bring their communities with them to give us a test drive, as switching from one streaming service to another is not a decision to be made lightly or alone.
So, starting with the Season of the Visionary, Visionaries will be given access to stream. Users who are not Visionaries can register a username on the site and fill out their profile but will not be given access to stream until closer to Season 1. This is subject to change depending on how well our launch goes, so make sure to have us bookmarked on Twitter beforehand!
Also, as mentioned earlier, Visionaries can reserve their username before Season 0's launch. Visionaries will be contacted via the email address they used on either Givebutter or Wefunder when username reservations begin. The cutoff date for reservations, and the Visionary program as a whole, will be October 25, 2021.
Once we launch, given things go mostly according to plan, Season 1: Season of the Reveal will hit 3 to 4 months afterward.
We know that was a lot of information to take in, so let's review before we close:
- We chose to do a seasonal model because it allows us to better communicate with you and give you predictable timelines for our feature releases.
- Season 0: Season of the Visionaries will be launching in November.
- Visionaries are folks who support the project through Givebutter (minimum $5) or invest through Wefunder (minimum $100).
- Visionaries will be able to reserve their username. Visionaries will be contacted via the email they registered on Givebutter or Wefunder. The cutoff date to be eligible for a reservation will be October 25, 2021. The Visionary program will be closed after that date.
- Visionaries will get streaming access when Season 0 begins.
- The service will be open for all to stream when Season 1 begins, around 3 to 4 months after our Season 0 debut.
Sixteen weeks to go until we introduce you to what we've been working on for the last year. Some of you have been waiting since last year, some of you just found out about us today. In either case, we wanted to get this information out sooner than later in the interest of transparency and make sure you have enough information to decide where you want to create content going into 2022.
For Team Altair, every day that passes makes this dream a little less of one. So while Season 0 is our start, it is far from the most fun we'll have with you and this platform. As always, thank you for believing in us, and thank you for believing in Altair. ✨