Game Director Letter - April 2013

Hi, everybody.

The last couple of months have been an interesting creative process as we’ve been investigating, discussing, outlining and finally implementing plans for the three projects across the live team.

I do apologize for missing the monthly update last month, and you can expect them to be back on track from now on.

As for the roadmaps we have put together, I am very happy with the plan we have come up with for Age of Conan - it is realistic and it will address most of the concerns and requests of the players. So without further rambling on my part, let’s talk about the roadmap!

Server Merges and Single Server Tech

Much requested by the community has been the consolidation of the player base. People have been hoping for the implementation of the single server tech which was used on The Secret World. During the last months we have been doing a pretty thorough investigation of what this would require and we have concluded upon a series of basic steps which will allow us to achieve most of the functionality from The Secret World.

Phase One - Moving the servers physically to the same location. This allows us to consolidate the EU and US realms into the same physical server set, which paves the way for the single server tech.

Phase Two - Merge same ruleset servers - this is the same as any merge in the past, with the PvE servers being merged into a single giant PvE server and the same for PvP. And yes, this does mean that the EU & US servers will be merged together.

Blood and Glory needs some assessment so, the question is whether we need to make some design tweaks to make them more appealing or we simply fold them. I’d prefer to do the former, but that is the more expensive solution. More information on that as we reach a decision.

Phase Three - Implement the basic cross server network layers - this will finally allow for cross server PvP and PvE queues! This is the most difficult and error prone step in the process - it isn’t simply a matter of ripping the code out of TSW and throwing it in Conan. However if the first two phases are in place, we should be able to achieve this – and knowing the great results it brought TSW I can’t wait to see this live for AoC.

All of the phases will require downtimes and we would like to begin the process as soon as we can. So expect to see those changes coming about during May.

Dragon’s Spine Content

The Dragon's Spine content has been under development at various states of delivery for a while. We have broken it into various updates internally, to estimate how and what we can deliver and how quickly.

Coils of Ubah Kan and The Slithering Chaos - These two six man dungeons are in production now and should appear on Testlive during May. The Slithering Chaos has some fairly large animation dependencies and may be delayed based on whether we have the animation resources to complete the boss in there.

Palace of Cetriss Raid & Minigame - Both are still in a fairly early stage of production and will require several months to reach a release state. More details on progress in those in the upcoming months.

Unchained & PvP Revamps

In addition to the Dragon's Spine content, we have several of the older pre-80 dungeons almost ready for their "Unchained" releases. This means that we will release several dungeons in the Unchained series over the coming months, including Crow's Nest, Iron Tower, Xibaluku, Slaughterhouse Cellar, Attilius's Mansion and Atzel's Fortress.

Unchained PvP is synonymous with a level playing field for all - from free players to hardcore veterans. Essentially we will provide a new tier of minigames, the Unchained Tier which can be joined by anybody - and they will automatically be given set gear and stats. We are still working on nailing the exact process (how do AA's work, does everyone get all abilities etc.) but we will provide more information as we get closer to completion.

This will serve a few purposes - firstly it will allow new players to jump right into high-level PvP - giving them the ability to hone their skills without being completely dominated by highly geared players.

With any luck it will also increase the population of PvP players in the minigames - allowing veterans to mix with others and share their prowess. Finally, it is definitely a return to the skill based PvP system that players have been asking for in the past.

In addition, during the patch cycle which includes the Unchained updates, we will also make some changes to the guards in world PvP, to facilitate better battles in the open world.

Tradeskill System

This is probably the single most anticipated update from the players, and unfortunately, there is some bad news on this front. The deeper we have looked into the system, the more work we have found that is needed before it can be completed, and this feature is still some months away from delivery.

Let me try and give you a little inside information on how the process is currently looking.

Functionally it works in our internal builds, in that you can break down items (not all of them) and combine items and discover recipes.

However, it is missing most of the background work that needs to be done in order for it to work in the game and the game systems. This includes the Guild Renown system which will need to be updated to use the new crafting system, Battlekeeps and Guild Cities and even the much-loved Shrines of Bori PvP game. All of these features interact with the old crafting system on some level and they all require updates to be able to be used with the new crafting system.

In addition, during the course of the development of The Secret World, the team began to use a new item creation tool. This tool, known as Gaia, is responsible for all new items in Age of Conan and The Secret World. However, Age of Conan used to use a different editor to create items, and the new tradeskills system does not work for deconstructing items created in that editor. We need to spend some time porting all of the items from that editor to Gaia - and then testing to ensure that everything works as we hope.

Then there are the quests themselves, hundreds of quests which facilitate the current in game crafting system. We need to tear them out and replace them with something else. While the new system will be quite freeform and will not require a lot of quests apart from a few brief tutorial quests - we need to replace the content we are removing from the game. This is not, of course, super critical and can be done over time, but it is still a part of the overall work required.

Finally, the new system uses a new type of resources to prevent item creation spamming and while the resource exists in code there is currently no UI to show players how much cooldown they are on, or when it will refill. Therefore, we have some minor UI work left to do as well.

Rest assured that work on the new tradeskill system continues in full force, and it remains a clear goal for us to get this done and ready for the live servers as soon as we can.

Age of Conan 5th Anniversary

Coming up we have the Age of Conan 5th Anniversary, which is a really exciting milestone for the game (and it also reminds some of us devs just how old we are...)

Together with the community team we are putting together a schedule of events and we will write an additional article about the upcoming festivities as soon as everything is in place!

It’s my goal to have several of the developers and the GMs take an active part in these events on the servers, to make sure it’s a party to remember!

Code and Quality of Life fixes

I also wanted to mention that just because of the large amount of things covered in this update, we haven't forgotten about the "little things". That includes general stability and bug fixing as well as the quality of life improvements that we can bring to the game. These will be rolled out with the patches as we go and continue to make Hyboria an even smoother and more stable place to spend time!

Alright, that was a pretty hefty update, thanks for listening!