Friday Dev Update: The Update Process

2:42 PM John Gamble 4 Comments



This week we release update 1.5, which introduces a redesigned user interface as well as full controller support. Click here to read the patch notes.

This has been a very fun patch to work on for me. It was very satisfying replacing the old placeholder interface. It had been sticking out like a sore thumb for too long. As for the next update, we will give you some more information on that soon. Keeping with our common pattern of alternating content and mechanics updates, the next one will contain some new content.

In this post, I’m going to briefly go over the process of creating and releasing a Salt patch.


Stage 1: Planning


The first stage of creating a new update is the planning stage. We often have mini-planning discussions throughout all stage of update development, so we sometimes have a decent idea of what we are going to be doing in a particular update before we start this stage. However, this is the time to focus on, and solidify the plan. 

As mentioned before, we generally alternate between content and mechanics updates so that we don’t go overly long without some new fun and very tangible stuff for players to explore and experience. So, if last update consisted of mostly one, we focus our planning on the other.

We look at our list of major things to do, notes on player feedback, bug lists, and brainstorm new ideas. We will write all of our candidates down and choose which ones we want to work on for the upcoming patch, and which we want to push back. We make these choices based on what we feel would be the biggest “wins” at the particular point in development. 

We also consider how long we think each will take to implement. We strive for a balance of releasing a full fun patch but not taking too long between updates. It took us about two and a half months to complete the interface update, and we received a lot of comments of people saying that they were glad to see we were still working on the game, which lets me know that we need to try to reduce that duration for future updates. 


Stage 2: Implementation


After we planned out what we are going to do, it’s time to implement the update. This accounts for the bulk of the update period. Also during this period, we continue to fix any major bugs that we become aware of from previous updates. Generally, the very small cosmetic or non-game-breaking bugs we will fix and roll it into the next major update without releasing a hotfix patch.

Initial testing is also a large part of this phase. Everytime I implement a little piece of something, I will test it and everything that I can think of that it might affect. This gets rid of many easy-to-catch bugs right off the bat.


Stage 3: Heavier Internal Testing


Once we are very close to finishing an update, we will put it through internal testing. That usually means we will start a new game and play for a bit. When I’m doing this, I make sure to cover the new content, but I find it’s also very beneficial to play normally so that I can try to catch any other unexpected problems.


Stage 4: Steam Testing Branch


When we feel pretty confident from our internal testing, we’ll push the update to the Steam Testing branch. This is an optional game branch on Steam that you can opt into. This is the point where the bravest players have the opportunity to risk it all and sail straight into the bug-infested waters.

This is a very important step because it increases the amount of testing, but it doesn’t yet release the content on everybody. This means that if someone finds and reports a bug, we can usually get it fixed pretty fast before it affects very many people. We really appreciate all of you who chose to help us with this process. You are the tanks of the development world.

In addition to finding bugs, players on the testing branch also provide us with great feedback and initial impressions. Things that are not pretty, intuitive, or smooth come to our attention very quickly. If you are a testing branch player, never worry about speaking your mind about new changes. Both positive and negative feedback are invaluable. 

We prefer to have the build on the testing branch at least a couple of days before we push the full release. The length of the time depends on the amount of bugs that need to be fixed. Large mechanics updates generally require more time on the testing branch than content updates.

If you are interested in opting in for the testing branch, click here for instructions.


Stage 5: Release / Hotfixes


After we are satisfied that things have been smoothed out in the testing branch stage, we release the update to the default Steam branch, and to our patcher for those that keep updated using that. This is both one of the most exciting and intense portions of the update process. 

With a much larger influx of players playing with the new additions, any bugs that slipped through stages 3 and 4 will be found, and must be fixed as fast as possible so that they affect the least amount of people. This generally results in a small number of hotfix patches on the day of through a few days following the release. 




After the release of an update there is both a great sense of accomplishment, and excited anticipation for starting on the next one. With each, Salt gets a little closer to the complete experience that, I hope, will instill a little extra adventure into someone’s life.


- John Gamble (Lead Developer)

4 comments:

  1. Regarding the duration of future updates, people that follow Salt and Lavaboots knew you're working on an update. However, not everyone has the time to be that invested in a single game. And considering how many Early Access titles were abandoned, it's natural for people to be somewhat sceptic towards Early Access games. I don't think it's that much of an issue that some updates get delayed, but then again you have a completely different and in-depth point of view as developers.

    About the rest of the post, I'd like to thank you for letting us know how things work on the inside. Keep up the good work and make sure to have fun with it! :)

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  2. Hello! Hey devs I agree with ^^^ The time it takes for the updates to happen is a little slow, I know you guys work hard but I hate games that update once every 2 months (Not saying you guys do that), but seeing fluent updates would be awesome and in your best interest as you know most people are skeptic about early access games. My friend was right about to buy it but e saw it was early access and had no multiplayer, Being a fan of the game I ended up buying the game for him. I see a lot in the future of salt, but it all depends if you guys want to get there.
    I wish you guys luck, (Steam name Sgt.PeeWee)

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  3. Great info guys, keep up the good work! (You made me want to opt in to be a tank too :)) - aarongbeyer

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  4. I would love to see a world builder sort of feature, storms, multiplayer support, and most of all, newer ships!

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