How to release your addon / theater by Snake Man, PMC.
This general overview of releasing your productions will give you the final edge on making things right on a released product.
As for reference, you should read from background from OFP: Howto release and ArmA: Howto release as those articles discuss many of the release issues, even though they are different game titles and has certain specific to those titles items.
When you are developing an addon there can be all kinds of temporary files laying around in your work directory. It is very important that you make sure that none of these unusable temporary or shall we call them leftover files gets into the release package because they only increase the download size, but look bad for anyone willing to take a look inside your addon package.
Good rule of thumb is that the addon should not contain anything not used in the addon in one way or the other. When you release; only put out the files used in the item you are releasing. Make sure no leftover TGA or Thumbs.db files for example are laying around in some subdirs etc. Be careful with this one as usually you don't even see the “Thumbs.db” file in windows explorer (its set as “hidden” file).
It is very very important that you include decent readme.txt into your addon release. This text file should be written with notepad or similar text editor that any kind of editor can open and read.
Basic readme should clearly state these following things;
With that stuff you should have covered all the basic information what possible addon looking users are interested to know. Add the readme inside the rar packet but also if possible make it available on forum post or a web page.
You know a good release is half of the addon quality and word spreads quickly over the internet if certain release has been goofed up. Make the effort to give your addon a good quality all around, not just the addon itself. It's worth it on the long run.
First of all, do not never ever use spaces in file names.
Please give the release a file name which itself describes the released product. Do not release “Theater.rar” as that is so lame you lose all credibility when someone starting to download sees the file name. If you have a group tag, start with that, then add the release name, then version number. For example.
When you name it like this, anyone seeing that file months from now in some directory, immediately knows that ah-ha, its PMC's Taiwan Theater the first version.
Sometimes you see people putting a screenshot or two into a release packet, sometimes you see 4 megabytes worth of screenshots in the packet. Now ask yourself, if a user already downloaded 50mb worth of your addon to play with it… why do he need to see screenshots 10 seconds before he fires the addon up ingame? DO NOT include screenshots in the release packet, its just stupid, screenshots belong to news sites or forum release announcement posts.
When your addon is ready for release, package it up with a RAR, do not use zip anymore as its so outdated.
If you're releasing a theater, its mostly done with NSIS installer, when the installer is done, put in a readme and package them together into a well named rar.
Why EXE installer for Falcon 4 theaters but not OFP/ArmA series? Well they are like completely different things, while the OFP/ArmA installing is just putting X number of pbo files in a dir, in F4 we have to do million things with batch files for example like running terrain rebuilder, recreate tiles, modify .lst file, you name it… try to do that without EXE installer and you are a true wizard :)
However on more serious note; Falcon 4 EXE installers never ever should modify users registry, not to even mention adding shortcuts or crap into users windows menus/desktops, make sure your EXE installer is very “clean” in that regard.
It is very common to loose the track of what's wrong when working on an addon release for a long time. You get inpatient when doing a testing after testing and just concentrate on the editing, this is very common situation.
Therefore you need an outsider beta tester who isn't involved in the editing. You should have at least one person who is willing to open your release archive, look at the readme, install the addon, play it with ingame etc to really give it a run for its money.
To have more people in the beta test team helps to discover bugs, errors or something you left out much quicker. Also to have the beta testers run rather clean F4 installs (not the developer install you've got) helps as you might have some files which are used in the addon but you don't even know it and the files aren't included in the release package.
Also give the beta testers some time to test; you cannot expect them to discover everything in the release in 5 minutes of testing time. Have them testing it one evening or so, at least several hours where they can calmly go through the basics of the addon.
Try to do some multiplayer (MP) testing, this is important part of any addon in user community as internet availability and speeds are increasing, more and more people are getting online and gaming. Make sure your addon works in MP and you're set.
It is very embarrassing to submit a news and forum posts and then few hours/days later discover that users start to report something very obvious bugs which should have been discovered. Trust beta testing, it helps.