Monthly Development Update - November 2011

Monthly Development Update - November 2011

This month we will take a trip through the ongoing schedule again! You all seemed to appreciate the 'bigger picture' updates as it were, so we will be trying to use every other month's letter as one of these 'here is the current plan' status updates, allowing you to keep updated on the progress of certain features, content or changes.

The Battle Plan

As always, the usual disclaimer. So as not to fall foul of people holding dates mentioned as being set in stone, we will take a look at most of these planned updates as being in order, with some approximate timings attached, but as above, please remember that these are subject to change. In fact we can pretty much guarantee you that at least some of these things will change, but, as we mentioned above, given how much people seem to appreciate the status style updates, we want to keep you up to date with the plans, even if they may mutate or distort before they reach the live servers!

Update 3.1

The Dreamworld technology update has been a time consuming one. The extra testing though should prove to have been well worth it. There are a lot of things in this update that provide foundations for some of the very cool stuff we have planned for next year!

We appreciate your patience while we have ironed out the kinks in a technical update like this one. We are always slightly loath to commit to these tech updates, as everyone would of course prefer we concentrated purely on adding content. We always look at these tech updates a little like slightly sour tasting medicine. You'd rather have something else, but they are essential and good for you in the long term!

Update 3.2

This update series will hopefully start pretty quickly after the launch of the 3.1 update.  The primary addition here is of course the House of Crom, and as we talked about last month, there are a whole slew of cool things coming with that dungeon -- including both social and instanced areas and a lot of great new boss encounters. The artists have also been spending this month polishing and re-lighting the dungeon to take advantage of the new rendering features we added earlier in the year. So the delay with 3.1 has had some fringe benefits, and the art team have really been able to out-do themselves with the additional time. House of Crom is probably going to be one of the most spectacular and atmospheric indoor locations we have added to the game yet.

This update series will also see the launch of the new Tier Four raid instance in the Jade Citadel, complete with three brand new raid encounters. Since we talked about House of Crom so much last month we hit up Senior Scripter Matthew Bennett for some of the details on the new Khitai raids. "The three new encounters in the Jade Citadel itself are some of the most complex we have done in the game. I think players will find the mechanics interesting and challenging, and they really play with your mental alacrity as much as they test your mettle with sword or spell.  For the first encounter the players will be entering the Jade Citadel itself and will be immediately confronted by a garden filled with strange and deadly plants and its unlikely warden. This encounter will test players' co-ordination in a raid setting. Then you have to venture deeper within the citadel -- the players will find themselves in the Zodiac chamber, a grand room in the depths of the Citadel where the emperor has plotted out a vast map of the stars. Through his magical power the players will face conjured avatars from the Khitan zodiac and use the very stars themselves to defeat their foes. This encounter is something quite different to anything we have done before, and I am really looking forward to seeing how players approach this one in particular."

"Then we have a major encounter with the emperor himself, and the players will be faced with a momentous choice involving some of the characters they should be very familiar with by now. Battling the Emperor will be no easy feat, and will test all that you have learned in raid combat up until this point. The cool part though, is that there is also some great storytelling in this encounter that I think people will really appreciate. It is the start of solving the mysteries of Khitai!"

These new raids will come in a 3.2.x update after House of Crom is released as the update series continues.

Systems wise the team are mainly looking at the PVP centric changes we mentioned previously, including the new re-spawn system for mini-games, and some other miscellaneous PVP tweaks.

This update series will also see the addition of new items in the store, and the veteran vendors, that allow players' banks and inventory to be expanded further. There will also be some additional new veteran teleports.

Update 3.3

This update will conclude the Tier Four raid experience, with the final Khitai raid instance, and the last two new encounters in the Tier. Those players brave enough to face these final dangers will finally be able to learn about some of the deepest mysteries of Khitai. The emperor was drawing power and influence from unnatural sources, and the players will embark on a mysterious journey that will see them revisit their own past and the shores where they started their own roads to immortality.

"I would hate to spoil any of this to be honest!" writer Joshua Doetsch replied quickly when we asked. "Instead let me share some of the dialog from one of the witnesses to the events that marked the start of this emperor's evil rule in Khitai. When questioning one of the NPCs, players will learn the following chilling tale:

' autumn night, bare feet on cold stone, I saw the new Emperor leading a weird procession. He had brought something back from the Crater of Kara Korum, paraded it down the streets. A chill swept out, the abyssal cold between heavenly bodies. We all shivered as we looked upon it...

-Kwan-ai, what did the Emperor bring back from the Crater?

A giant sarcophagus...with stars inside. As the silent procession passed, those who gazed into the star coffin looked as though something had been taken from them, something never taken before. A man in the crowd screamed. He screamed that he was not afraid, never could be afraid -- screamed and screamed.'

"Let's just say that players will get to learn what filled those who gazed into the coffin with such dread. These encounters are the most mind-bending and insane tales we tried to tell in the game, and I really hope that the players enjoy it. We are definitely taking them to some places that they least expect!"

This update will also feature some great new additions like the new PVP world bosses and, as requested from the player survey in the summer, a new Multi Feat Specification system. There will also be some exclusive new PVP reward mounts added.

Of course much of the work on the PVP side of things at the moment is on the systems side of things, and the systems team are currently all tasked with balance updates and improvements. Which leads us to the next major point, and one I am sure will generate some debate and discussion in the comments (remember to keep it constructive guys!)

One of the major changes that we have talked about before, but not confirmed the approach for, is how we plan on doing the overhaul to sprinting and how to address the stamina issues. The systems team have now finalised the plan for revamping that area.

Systems Lead Einar Forselv has the details:

"We plan to introduce a completely new resource that regenerates in and out of combat for use with both sprinting and double tapping (this will be called something like "Vigor" or "Energy").  This means that the sole purpose of stamina will then only be linked to damage output (and allow us to re-balance that appropriately). Endurance will affect combo stamina cost. The fine details will be tuned, but the amount of the new resource will most likely not be the same for all classes for balance purposes, but will be upgraded in the AA trees. Also mounts will be changed to use the new system. This means that all classes can potentially have the same sprint ability on horses, and we can make a larger variety of horses either doing short sprint bursts or large sprint intervals. This also means that we are considering removing stamina from the Spellweavers and the costs and effects there will be reworked. We felt that it was about time that we took the time and made the full, robust solution that players have been asking for. I am sure there will be tweaks and pokes to this during testing, but players can be aware now that we are going to be fixing it properly, thus allowing all those balance concerns and inequalities to be addressed."

This update should hopefully come early in 2012, probably starting in February.

Update 3.4

This will be another mainly technical update, and a very important one for the game. This update will bring with it the new Dreamworld Single server technology. This will allow us to do all manner of cool things, but most notably, cross-server mini-games, and a group or instance finder system. We also have some special plans for this technology. It's just a little early to go into the details, but we are looking at ways in which we can utilise this technology to really give players much more true choice in the type of environment they play the game in, and ways to make it easier to play with friends, and like minded people.

This may also facilitate some major overhauls to the siege system. We are in early internal discussions there, but it is a prime candidate for some renewed attention once we have these new infrastructure systems in place.

As we have mentioned before, this update series will also see new versions of the recent daily ACG dungeons (The Breach, The Forgotten City, and Dead Man's Hand). Two of them will be re-tooled purely for max level AA balanced characters to provide more variety for those looking for their daily tokens, and one of them will be a new team instance. (The original versions will not disappear! These will simply be new variants for people to enjoy, with a different challenge level and appropriate rewards.)

This will hopefully go live during Q1 2012.

Update 4.0

This update will be the next adventure pack. We aren't quite ready to announce the location and theme for this pack just yet, but pre-production work is in progress. We are currently aiming at Q2 2012 for this adventure pack to go live.

This update will also be the most likely landing spot for the launch of the full trade-skill revamp. We are still early in the process here, and will probably talk in more detail about this in the New Year sometime. Suffice to say though, this is currently not planned as just some small tweaks, but is a fundamental re-write of the system, and is intended to create a deeper and more engaging tradeskill system that will allow for some real specialisation, and the creation of some interesting items.

Systems wise the team will be looking at the Mage classes in a little more detail and give them the same once over as they will have done with Priests by then.

So there you have it

It is going to be a busy year. The beauty of working on an MMO title is that you are rarely bored, and you always have the opportunity to try something new. Some of the plans for 2012 have us very excited, and we are working really hard to continue adding both fantastic new content and great systems to support your enjoyment of the game.

See you on the battlefield.