Originally Posted by YoureToast
Do you have any plans to encourage/force/threaten Merge to improve their software? I would anticipate that this is going to happen because its likely increased rake will support some improvements but based on my very extensive and long experience watching poker rooms succeed and fail, it boggles my mind how little effort most poker operators put into improving the user experience. Though Stars and Full Tilt had great marketing, their software is what put them over the top IMHO (especially Stars who's tournament software was the first and best software by far and it wasn't close). Party Poker spent a great deal of time improving their software as well (many us remember the days when they were growing so fast their servers couldn't keep up, but they did what they needed to do to advance their software to become #1 pre-UIEGA).
You can look at the RPM thread for lots of comments about the software. Personally, I believe the main problem rests in the fact that its based on Flash, which limits its capabilities.
#1, you are absolutely correct, with no question about it. You have no idea how much more critical than I of general poker software than most players and being from Stars, I use to feel such pain when I looked at even FTP software back in the day. Although nowadays I would say it is debatable which one is truly better.
That being said, I did pick Merge back in August because they were the best out there and after regularly visiting their office and playing Starcraft 2 after hours on Lan with their CTO and programmers, I give them the sufficiently nerdy thumbs up. But then why is it like this, if this is clearly the most important aspect of a room and a key success factor in actually making it big.
CONTEXT OF THE CRAPPER
I think what people don't realize is how complex the poker client is because of a couple of aspects: security and scalability. You'd think the main focus would be 'playability/user experience', but it's not, it is actually stability and consistency of game play (preventing disconnections and screwing up game play with funky graphics). Which is pretty much pressured by the scalability due to the multi tabling aspect and the ability to play against everyone on the entire network.
Whereas most multi player games are set up in a series network- meaning you can only play against x number of players at one time, and when the network wants to grow, they just stick on a new server, think zynga poker, one table with just x number of players possible per server. Whereas with a poker real money client, its more like a google situation where they add to the the capability of the central processing, but its not such a smooth process. Or at least it wasn't (and please forgive me if I'm not using the right terminologies, I just know it enough to make sense of it), but nowadays that issue is largely solved with most networks. But if you remember the very early days, there were some poker clients when they hit 5000 users the 1st user would get kicked off when a new user came on, while nothing is that overt anymore, it still is an issue.
Now to further complicate things; the poker client is set up with different API for different payment solutions etc, but its not like you have just one payment solution, these are constantly also being tweaked upgraded and changed. To add the fact that the client is live and you have new network partners coming on and its pretty much a cluster**** where everyone at this point knows what to change, but there simply isn't the time or space to make these really important changes.
Trust me these guys are not dumb, they know what to change, but don't get a chance to do so, cause if you only do it half ass and people start popping off the network, then you've just screwed yourselves even more.
So most client architecture was actually made with inherent limitations (due to language, initial scope etc), but sites didn't know this until they hit those limitations, so there are two options: build a new client from scratch or build the exact same client in a different language. I know of a couple of sites that did the former and basically took another 8 months to debug it when it was already live. And Merge which opted to do the later and make a client which was scalable and stable, but was still looking like it had zero changes to its user experience and which was true.
So that is the context, so where is this going?
You should know, when this client was being reprogrammed, most of the comments from twoplustwo were researched and documented to design a fully upgraded client and this is different from updated, I mean some serious changes are coming. And what is good about this is that, when the changes come, because now Meger understood the scope, there can be major add ons of functionality/player experience etc.
Well I can't say when exactly because expectations being what they are in software development, everyone gets disappointed on time lines, but I would say its so not so far off, definitely before the end of the year and from what I've seen of the design and proposed functionality with my meetings with the CTO, I'm very happy with the potential. I even got a couple of my pros to write out some issues that put them on tilt and guess what, they were already covered when I brought them up with the CTO and twoplustwo probably was the main resource for the functionality.
But I'll say this, more frustrated than anyone are the programmers and tech guys who completely know what is wrong, but due to number of add ons etc and what is the development pipeline for security and stability issues, can't ever getting around to scratching their functionality itches. It was the correct executive decision for Merge to remake the client in a language that was suitable for the now expected levels of security, scalability and functionality.
I'm gonna to come out right and say it clearly, from my professional option, Merge's new client will be at least as good as Stars circa 2008, now I say that to manage expectation, but obvious, they are aiming higher to jump a functionality/user experience generation here. And myself and the CEO have a very good and mutually respectful relationship and while there is no favoritism, I do make an effort to visit the main offices at least once every 2.5 months or so, and we do talk a lot of shop because of my background is not at the start-up level but at the level that Merge obviously had ambitions for. And of course I give the staff a beat down in SC2 as well when I visit. But to be serious for moment, it is no coincidence that it is Merge that has been growing for this past year, even before the recent issues. But I do also fear that the rapid growth may delay the upgrade, but when it comes, and it will come, I will party like it is 1999 again.