Monthly Development Update: February
This has been a very interesting month for me, because I'm learning about all the different components that keeps a live game like AO up on its feet. In addition to the development team we have many people working behind the scenes; making sure the servers are running, that patches are being deployed, that our content is good and that your petitions are answered. I'm getting to know them now, and some of them really go out of their way to improve AO. You asked whether the development team work on other projects – no, everyone on the dev team works solely for AO.
The New Engine
In February we produced our first new engine video! The Funcom marketing department liked it so much that they jumped at the chance to help us promote it, which ultimately pushed it back a couple of days but the extra time is worth it!
The production of this video initiated some really nice progress. The artists are more confident working with the settings and materials, and they learned what they can do to really make a difference in quality. Two features that we had previously thought were broken in code simply work once the artists got to spend some more time with it. Grass can now be displayed correctly in the distance, and our spec maps no longer make objects look like glazed donuts.
The code progress in February is also significant! We've successfully made our own version of the internal world building tool so it is specialized in AO playfields. Before, we shared the same version of the tools platform with the other projects in the building, which had proved a little problematic since AO's playfields are very different from those in AOC and TSW!
In March we're attempting to rewrite the code that allows for our playfields to be converted from the old engine to the new engine. Currently some of our playfields are converted incorrectly which results in the ground not being displayed. This actually forced us to cut some locations from the first engine video, but once we have a better conversion process we will finally be able to access and improve the remaining playfields.
The New Start up Experience
We believe that the new start up experience will do AO a lot more justice for any new player who enters the game, and the artist are now building new areas that are fully supported by the coming engine.
Everyone will start here, whether you have the expansions or not.
You'll begin in a single player area, where you'll be introduced to the very basics of the game, including your profession tools. When we get this right it should only take you a couple of minutes to play through, and you'll end up with all the gear you need to start out (but hopefully you will want more!)
As soon as you've completed the single player area, you'll be able to enter the second part; a new open world area specifically designed to be fun and offer direction on just about anything that you should know about AO before you set out to explore the rest of the game. You can team up with friends to gain some benefits, but it won't be compulsory.
I expect this to be ready for Live before the engine update and the profession changes, and I'll make sure to announce when it's ready for beta testing on the Test Dimension (:
Currently some professions have very strong, unique roles, while others have to rely solely on DPS, and we're looking at the fundamentals of each profession's primary and secondary role. As part of our vision, we're extending the usability of your tools to allow you to be more efficient in your role and depend less on just attack rating.
Changing Game Direction in the middle of this process have delayed us, there is no question about that, but we're getting help from our new Producer planning the work ahead of us and fitting in these new stronger role visions into this work.
We have gone through and reviewed a little more than half of the profession role changes in February, so logically by the end of March we're aiming towards approving all of them. Once we've made these decisions, we'll go back and adjust the formulas and numbers too before we're ready to start the implementation.
As I've mentioned before some of the more general changes will come first, but all the specific changes will be released in one patch. I will reveal more in the coming patch notes.
Please continue to play without too much worry of what these changes will bring! We will allow for free IP-resets and breed re-rolls, and anything else we can think of that will make it as easy as possible for you guys to adapt to these changes. Our hope is that you will have a lot of fun re-discovering the mechanics of your favorite professions, yet will keep most of the tools you're already familiar with in some shape or form.
Many of you have questions about the server merge. The only thing that I can confirm is that it will not be a transfer from one server to another, but moving characters to a completely new server. AO is an old game now, and I'm told that it will benefit greatly from starting on a fresh server to ensure that it can keep running smoothly for another ten years.
Some of you suggested starting a new forum section to discuss this, and I think that's a good idea. To quote one of you: “I know you guys do your best to think through issues, but quite often players are able to contribute some meaningful feedback that may cover concerns you guys have missed.”
I think this sums it up nicely.
When I have confirmation on how a server migration can be done, we will set up a forum section to further discuss this. We're already taking into consideration some of the issues that you've brought up so far, and we're hoping to address these as part of the migration.
1) What will happen to GMS/Player Shops?
2) Character names?
3) Organization Names and Members
4) Organization Cities
5) Notum Towers
6) Maximum Character Slots
7) Performance Issues
8) Camped Monsters
We've made a couple of new things for sale; a new flying vehicle, new shoulder pads with color variations, and a couple of wedding bouquets and other love themed items that I think look really nice. These will pop into the shop at various times, and some of them already have.
The Next Game Update
The next patch will contain quite a few game improvements, based on your feedback. I'll keep you posted with preliminary patch notes when it's ready for Test Live, although I'm not expecting it before the end of March.
I appreciate all the feedback we've gotten this past month, and I hope that I covered most of your questions in this newsletter!
Fia “Lindelu” Tjernberg