Monthly Development Update – November 2012

Monthly Development Update – November 2012

This month the team are deep in the final stages of production for the Secrets of Dragon's Spine content. These closing stages are always the busiest as we work through the bug reports, testing and tweaking required to push an update to the live servers.

Devcast Recap

By the time you read this we will have completed the latest live dev-cast video stream with the good folks from Hopefully you will have gotten some cool new insights into the crafting revamp and the systems updates that are coming your ways with the Dragon's Spine updates.

You can find the entire session online here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Dragon's Spine Approaches!

The team are very hard at work putting the final touches on the first batch of content for the Secrets of the Dragon's Spine content updates, and it's great to see things coming to life on monitors as you wander the office here in Montreal. As always the artists are outdoing themselves with some amazing visuals in the fantastic environs that will be home to your new adventures.  Likewise the designers are getting the content ready, and twisting some fine new tales into this new area, and breathing life into some very ancient evils that will cross your path.
This is also the first time that the artists have had the new Dreamworld engine on a large outdoor area 'from scratch' as it were, so they have been having a lot of fun with the environments
Creating content that is going to come episodically has also created some new challenges for the designers, with having to consider when to reveal things, and how to structure quests and storylines when they will span several content updates. It's been a great experience for the team, and we are looking forward to sharing the results.

The Dragon's Spine content is now starting to appear on the test servers, so if you want to help out with the process make sure you drop by and take part in the testing. It really is an important part of the process and provides the team with a lot invaluable feedback. A huge thanks to those who are already helping out with the testing!

Things have definitely been more challenging with the smaller team size, but everyone is working hard to make things happen, and we even brought a few people back to the team to help out with this push.

It's getting down to the wire now in terms of the release window, so we are currently working hard to bring the first Dragon's Spine updates to the live servers before the holidays. In all honesty it is very tight right now, and as we write this we can't say for certain which side things will fall on. If all goes according to plan you will be enjoying some exploration of lost civilizations and battles with ancient evils with your holiday festivities, but likewise testing and the final bug-fixing may dictate that we have to wait a little longer. So we aren't setting a date just yet, we would rather that we err on the side of caution rather than give any false holiday promises laced with a little over-excitement about getting so close to launch!

It is all coming together nicely, and we want you all to see it at its best when the time comes to explore Dragon's Spine.

Then we have the next important part of this week's update is the status on the crafting revamp. Progress is being made, and there are two different parts of the process that are in progress at the moment. On one hand we have the creation of all the actual items and sheer raw data required to make it all work, on the other we have the GUI and the presentation of the interface and how it will work for all of you when it goes live.

The item data is a huge amount of work, spanning almost every part of the games item system, and beyond when you also have to factor in the new nodes, the placement of those nodes, and the fact that this means we have to essentially re-export the node data for every playfield in the game. The creation of new ingredients, the combination and result data, and then the items themselves is also a lot of meticulous and time-consuming work and we haven't been able to make as much progress there as we would like. This may result in some, or all, of the crafting revamp moving towards the end of the Dragon's Spine updates rather than the start. We will keep you updated with the progress there as we move along this month, but right now it looks like this will probably arrive in the updates in the new year.

Last month we talked about work starting on the GUI elements, and the GUI is now coming together nicely and getting ready for dedicated testing. (In fact you may have already seen a working version in the developer stream earlier in the week. Fingers crossed that happened! The curses of writing text in advance!). This element should be done and dusted and ready for whenever the data is ready for your consumption.

On all things PVP

Last month we talked about how the crafting system revamp will impact PVP and how we intend to tie elements from the new crafting system directly into PVP, make sure you check out the details if you missed them last month.

The new PVP mini-game that will be tied to the Dragon's Spine content will be a 6v6 game, and will be linked to the new locations that are being added with this update series. This new addition will come with the latter parts of the Dragon's Spine updates.

Then we have the bigger question of what comes next after the mini-game, and the Dragon's Spine content is done and dusted. The honest answer is that we haven't decided there yet. A lot will depend on what resources are available, and how we choose to adapt to the faster development updates. There are quite a few possibilities there, and some align with the intention of creating updates faster more than others, while those that look more at the systems approach may take longer to implement. If we were to look purely at a content driven approach, say new or modified mini-games or rule-sets those could fit neatly into the idea of doing 'less, more often'. Then on the other hand the more systems driven approach would require a greater amount of work, like looking at an Arena system, or the idea of a working factional conflict system that we threw around last year. It is a development challenge, and an interesting intellectual quandary for the designers. A lot of the things that would be most welcome are actually the most complex, and time consuming to create, when the appetite for new stuff is ever more insatiable.

So we don't have a completely clear path forward here just yet. There are lots of great ideas, and as always you would love to be able to do all of them, but reality keeps being pesky and insisting that we actually have to spend time to make the cool stuff happen. We have to finish the Dragon's Spine update series first, and then we will move onto considering what should come next for major additions on the PVP side of things.

Regardless of the 'big picture' stuff, we will continue to make the small, but important, tweaks and improvements to the existing systems, skills, and abilities that we have been doing now for the last year as they do seem to be having a positive impact on the PVP game-play and overall is serving to enhance the experience in combat nicely. Therefore it will be important that we keep pulling those strings and keep working on that continual improvement approach.

New Music Inbound

Last week we also had some really exciting news, as we announced that we are delighted to once again be working with our fantastic composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen for some new tracks to go alongside the Dragon's Spine content. The new music will be part of the updates in the new year as Knut is currently busily orchestrating and recording the new music. We've already heard some of his early drafts and we are very excited about these new recordings. It will be the perfect soundtrack to your epic adventures in these new dangerous lands!

Wrapping up

That is it for this month, as the year draws to a close we will also start to set our thoughts on the coming year, and even beyond that, with the news that Conan will return to the big screen again in 2014, bringing some exciting new developments for fans of the great barbarian ... but those are stories for a future camp-fire ...

See you on the battlefield!