Monthly Development Update - July 2011

Monthly Development Update - July 2011's been quite an amazing few months for the game. The roll-out of the Dreamworld update, a great content push sine then, the Unchained version and a lot of great new content to come, starting with the upcoming Savage Coast of Turan adventure pack. However, off the back of the PVE heavy update last month, it's time to reflect instead on the more bloody side of things and talk a little PVP!

The PVP edition

This time out the focus of this update is going to be on the PVP changes, improvements, and additions, that are coming up for the game over the rest of the year. With the adventure pack arriving next month, there will be quite a few previews coming up in the press, so we wanted to focus a little on the PVP side of things with this update, and let you all know what the plans are there.

Systems and Balance updates

One of the main things we wanted to do for PVP over the next few months was to focus on a lot of the smaller, but significant, things that have previously been a little lower down the priority list, but all combine to be those niggling annoyances when you are playing, and in particular in PVP.

So behind the scenes we have been preparing a number of changes, and getting ready to approach even more, in order to improve on a lot of these areas, and generally look to improve that overall experience by removing as many of those inconsistencies and annoyances as we can.

Some of these will also provide some fixes in PVE, but by and large they have been looked at to improve the balance of PVP and lift the general quality of the PVP experience up a notch.

General PVP systems and balance updates

Here we have a number of things that the team have wanted to address for a while. Some of these will come relatively soon, some will be a little further out (as they require some additional thought and feedback). These don't include specific class balance concerns, as those are considered and addressed in each update anyway by the systems team, so are always ongoing. These are more the general changes that effect the systems as a whole. So, over to lead System Designer Einar Forselv to take a look at some of the changes being considered...

Resurrection system in mini-games

This part of the mini-game system will be overhauled so that it works more like a respawn system you might find in a first person shooter, with a timer based respawn. This means that players spawn together with their other recently deceased team-mates. We will also be looking to close all those loopholes people try and use to afk in mini-games.

Tracking system

This system will be overhauled so that it's benefits are more balanced in PVP. The original design was made before launch and was focused on the PVE elements, and has never really comfortable sat well with PVP balance, thus this is one of those areas we have wanted to get to for some time. That time will be soon, and the team are currently investigating how to implement that system a little better for the PVP settings. On a related note we will also be implementing a proper anonymous mode (or /anon as most would know it from other games) so that players can be hidden from search commands if they want to be.

Siege Performance

This is getting some more love and attention at the moment. The next updates already include some significant performance improvements. We have been working hard on finding and closing off the sneaky ways in which certain players have tried to deliberately generate large amounts of network traffic to prevent their opponents from having a smooth experience. We will also be adding another new catch-all protection that will automatically detect individual user that generate abnormal amounts of network traffic and block them from the system (so hopefully it will help police those who would find a new way to try and cheat here!). These updates will continue in each of the upcoming updates.

That is only half the work though, and we are also working on refining the network messaging in relation to skills and abilities, so that it can better handle those situations when there are many players in an enclosed space. We have found some culprits there and will be addressing those over the course of the next few updates.

Stamina and Agro fixes

As the community team have been keeping folk up to date with, the systems team have made great strides in crushing a couple of the more annoying bugs that would infrequently pop up in regards of stamina regen and agro generation. These fixes will benefit both PVE and PVP.

Animation and Combat updates

There has been a couple of long standing inconsistencies with the way the animation system interacts with combat calculations that some players have used to their advantage. The team have made some changes here to prevent this, and to give us a sounder basis on which to make further changes in the future, should they be required. This will go to the live server in the same update as the adventure pack content.

Targeting Changes

This is a minor change, but another cosmetically small one that should be helpful in PVP. Currently your team-mates and a player target you haven't yet engaged both appear with green names. This will be split out into a different colour name-tag so that you can identify your team-mates much more easily on the battlefield.

Then there is a more significant area that we really want to look at. This isn't something you will an update to in the near term, but it feel into this list as it was part of the same discussion. It is though a lot more involved, and will require additional time (so you are more likely to see it much later in the year, or maybe early next).

Stealth system

We really want to improve this area of the game, in particular for PVP. None of the current team are really 'happy' with how it works when it comes to it's impact on the PVP game-play. So this is an area that we agree needs work, but also needs a good solid plan for the overhaul. The system team are currently working through the items on the list above, and will then turn their attention to the stealth system, to see how it can be improved upon for PVP. So make sure to discuss your thoughts, ideas, suggestions and concerns on this one, as it will all tie into the team's thoughts when they sit down to thrash out the details.

Hopefully people will appreciate the extra time taken to work through these issues that, while some seem small in isolation, all combined to detract slightly from the overall PVP experience. As a systems team we really wanted to address that and get to fix some of these areas. 

Blood and Glory Specific updates

The new server rule-set has settled in pretty well, and we have been pretty happy with the stable niche of players that are building a fairly consistent PVP population on this hardcore server rule-set. We have been monitoring the feedback and will be looking to some tweaks and pokes to further improve the rule-set.

The two main talking points have been the Consequence system and the gold drop system, and how they interact with the rule-set. To take the consequence system first, we are going to look to overhaul it a bit and improve the logic behind when you get flagged and how, to ensure that it is serving it's purpose correctly. Now we do see that there are some voices calling for that feature to be removed for the Blood & Glory server, on the grounds that it is an open hardcore server, but there also appears to be a split opinion there. So what we will be doing is formulating the changes that are coming up for that system, explaining them to you (they will roll out on the other servers anyway as they will improve that system), and then we will have a poll as to whether the Blood and Glory community would like to have the new improved system or have it disabled.

In terms of the coin drop we are going to test there being some generation of coin drop when you kill each other in PVP, so that it isn't only from your existing coin (since people are avoiding having any balance of coin on them so as not to lose out, and thus having a flow of coin that is probably still a little too low. It will have to be balanced with diminishing returns, so as to avoid farming, but we are looking at some solutions there.

New PVP content - World bosses incoming...

So that's a fairly long list of improvements en-route for the PVP side of things, but what about the content side of things?

For the next content addition for the PVP areas we went back to another 'old school' inspiration, and that is open world targets that you have to fight for the right to take down. A lot of the feedback we get from players, past and present, is that they feel the other Border Kingdoms are under-used and that some more open world objectives would be good for the game PVP wise. It also appealed on the nostalgia level, many of us on the team have fond memories of pitched battles over open world bosses or locations that you used to see in games like Anarchy Online and Dark Age of Camelot, and we want to try and reproduce that feeling for this addition.

So the next content addition will take the form of new PVP world bosses that will appear in the other Border Kingdoms.

These massive foes will spawn in locations in the Border Kingdoms, and will challenge players to organise to take them down. However, they will always appear in an open and unrestricted PVP setting, so anyone wishing to take them on will have to compete with their fellow players as well.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is a PVE activity trying to cast itself as a PVP reward. These creature or foes will not be raid style bosses, requiring tactics and advanced raid techniques, these are great lumbering foes, incredibly tough and robust. While they won't require a massive amount of brain-power to defeat, they will require you to secure yourselves enough time to take them down!

Their loot tables will be designed specifically for PVP rewards, and they are not part of the raid hierarchy. The key here is that they will be an open, disputable, spawn that you will have to fight for the right to take down. Currently the plan is that they will appear once per day, per currently unused Border Kingdom, but that may change during testing.

These new encounters are currently schedule to appear in a 3.x update version, that will come after the adventure pack launches. (When exactly it ends up going live will depend on interim updates after the adventure pack, but the intention is that they appear sometime in the late fall.) 

It is also a precursor to what we follow on, in that we want to add additional elements and open targets to those areas in the updates that follow this that in the long term we have even more PVP objectives for players to challenge.

Fall Update status –  The movie tie-in

Keep your eyes out over the coming few weeks for a lot of previews on the new adventure pack. The Savage Coast of Turan, is being prepared internally and is starting to look really good. The team have been working very hard to follow up on the summers content with something so substantial hot on the heels of Unchained and all the new content we have launched this year.

I know lots of you are eager for more details, and we will be ramping up the articles, screenshots, and other material about the adventure pack over the next few weeks as we prepare for its launch after the summer.

Next stop the Savage Coast of Turan!

We are very happy to see how well things are going for the game this year. It really has made all the hard work and dedication from the team worth it, and we aren't is going to be a very exciting remainder of the year, and we are all looking forward to sharing it all with you! With these planned PVP updates alongside all the new content, we are also excited to see you all fighting for it!

We will see you on the battlefield!