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Blog Post - Duende - 4/1/17


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#1 Duende

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Posted 01 April 2017 - 07:39 PM

One of the significant challenges we face when building out new features in a game with a rich storyline and a (very) long history is managing expectations.  
 
Some additions need to be telegraphed in advance; the release of Archon Hunters in 1999, for example, would have made no sense if they weren't accompanied by lore and signals about what they might do or be in the future.  Creating in-game journals that provided background about how ancient druids had found artifacts and been able to use their power inside of other items set the stage for relics' original release.  
 
When additions aren't sufficiently close, or when creators jump the gun, sometimes that messaging can go awry.  Storylines involving Castle Matrix, which contains the generator that provides stability for the Faerie Plane within the chaos of the larger Ethereal Plane, have faltered for 15 years, after we got ahead of ourselves talking about it without having actually built any of the content.  Everything about the Council of the Arcane was intended to be backdropped by the massive Varia Tower, a wizard's tower that is home to the Council, and is presided over by the category-7 boss Glacius. This area was 'tested' in 3.2; it was never more than 5% complete, because it never had scripts or descriptions written and was 2000 rooms- easily the largest area in Alyra.  
 
After letting players down a few too many times, we've become rather strict about not leaking things too early.  Not only do we seek to not publicize new features or changes before we're 100% sure they're ready for players to use and attempt to break them, we aim to not even use terms that people might have built expectations around that we know we can't meet.  Frequently, this is due to terms that were publicized carelessly, without proper context to prevent people from imagining features that we'd never intended to make.  
 
For example, players occasionally find resources in the wilds- they might have heard about plans for mining in the past, or seen stubbed-out skills for professions like mining, tailoring and logging.  The imagination runs wild- this could be anything!  You could make your own armor, deforest the wilds and dynamically change the map, you could build and customize your own relics...  
 
The plans for Mining were clearly enumerated in the 4.0 design documents.  Shops would not automatically restock on their own- when the magic shop ran out of reagents, they were out forever.  In order to restock them, adventurers would sell raw materials gathered in the wilds to the shopkeepers at a pittance, who would use those materials to partially restock their inventories.  Those materials would be gathered by finding a Mine in the wilds, going inside of it, and mining.  Mining involved typing 'mine <resource>' and then waiting several seconds as your character emoted things conveying that it was mining.  
 
Suffice to say, it wasn't very fun, everybody would have hated it, and it never got released.  This was the full plans for mining, resources, and dynamic shop inventories.  If anyone ever asked whether mining and professions were planned or in progress, the answer was 'technically yes', but there was no further explanation available that wouldn't have squashed dreams.  
 
This brings us to today.  Some features which have been talked about for a decade or two will never feasibly be released; we could make a 50-room area with a boss at the top and say that's Varia Tower, but that would be a let-down for anyone who knows how grandiose it was supposed to be- myself included.  If, instead, we made that exact same area and didn't call it Varia Tower, it could be a fun new area with some miniquests and bosses and some pk opportunities and it wouldn't have to be anything more than that.  Professions could be released as access to subcommands that would perform small utility actions, like tending plants to make them grow faster or minorly repairing items...  But that wouldn't be very fulfilling after decades of talk about how amazing and all-encompassing they would be.  
 
We avoid loaded terms that people have attachment to and have wondering about and imagining the possibilities of since they were kids.  
 
Today I'm going to break that little rule.  
 
After reboot, Archons will be able to explore and find 3 new questmasters around Alyria.  Those questmasters will each grant a series of quests which will, upon completion, grant a Mark and access to new spells.  This is both totally different from previous conceptions of how they were going to work, and totally faithful to how they were supposed to work, but either way, Archon Classes will be released for 4.6.


#2 Aesir

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Posted 01 April 2017 - 11:13 PM

Neat.