If the theme of September's big 4.6 reboot was "we're going to make the system way better", the theme of the upcoming reboot is "we're going to make the system way better for you". Iyara and I talk on the phone a few hours a week, going over recent additions and figuring out the best way to test it and making sure they're all good additions. During out last conversation, I stumbled upon the fact that that's what all of these new additions are- we've spent years getting the system to a point where it's actually feasible and sort of enjoyable to add a hundred good new additions, and we can be pretty confident they'll work as desired.
Iyara and I have both been around almost 25 years, and the game has had a lot of incarnations and goals and experiments in that timeframe. We've chilled out a bit in our old age- we don't need to be super competitive against other games, or struggle against negativity or cheating, or try to patch gaping holes in our systems. Materia Magica in 2018 is mature, stable, and enjoying a miniature renaissance of talented, motivated players. The immortal staff's credo for the past few years has been "take a thing that sucks, and make it suck less". Then repeat 20000 times as necessary.
Sometimes improvements are expressed in milliseconds fewer than code has to work on something that it does a dozen times a second. Sometimes it's fewer bytes your client has to receive from the server. Other improvements can be expressed in the number of clientside triggers you can delete, because we replicated the functionality you want on the server. Gag rules can go away because we removed spammy messages, or the behavior that necessitated spammy commands in the first place. Yet more can be expressed in hours we saved ourselves by formalizing some code boilerplate, instead of copy/pasting something for a 600th time. Regardless of what the improvement is, it's always an improvement- and we're not only continuing to work on a text-based RPG in 2018, the rate at which we're improving things is accelerating and snowballing.
All of the infrastructure changes we've been adding since the summer of 2014 are getting increasingly visible opportunities to shine. The way we split up our monolithic source code, into a bunch of specialized git repos meant we "could just" add a new repository for a new subtype of the playerbase. This is what let us grant new skills to players. We have a method of maintaining in-game code variables which we've recently streamlined, which is what let us add a change that halves weapon decay. Ordinarily messing with decay would take a lot of QA resources and be a potential dangerzone- if some conditional math went in sideways, peoples' items might start decaying at 10x the speed and we wouldn't be able to fix it for weeks until we could properly reboot to fix it. Now, it's a variable we can tweak in emergencies, making us more resilient to failure.
We've had a decent influx of novices new to Materia Magica lately, who are active even during American nights, which are typically less active in terms of guides and helpers in the novice clan. When they need to be directed to maps and help, it was easy to add the changes that provide 'where is maps' to most major cities, and help entries that link to each other.
When we wanted to try encouraging low-effort, low-risk PK to introduce lowbies and those who weren't around during the heyday of the clan wars, it took less about 5 minutes to add a code hook to the rune arena that let us tie it to daily quests, leveraging similar code<->script<->quest functionality we wrote a few years ago.
Similarly, the work that Iyara undertook last year to make bags of tricks more VI-friendly, which also made them more friendly in general, allowed us to generally reuse the code and concepts that people were now familiar with, and apply them to apothecary bottles and reagent bags. Less spam, fewer triggers/aliases and greater customization benefits everybody.
Not all of the relationships between infrastructure are quite as clear-cut: I started researching a new storage mechanism to hold 'memorize default' lists and wish lamp data, which made it much easier to write roadsigns. Roadsigns are a new type of item which exist only in the wilds, and hold directions between towns. These roadsigns, which will be at the intersections of roads and outside of areas, will permit the 'run' command to not just be used directionally like mounts, but to allow in-game speedwalks like 'run rune', which can take you from the Tower of Art on one side of Sepharia to Rune at the other, without stopping or having to re-enter commands.
A lot of faith has gone into the improvement of the game, where any given reboot's changes might've been 70% behind-the-scenes and of no direct relevance to players. But we're seeing dividends from those changes, and allowing us to really leverage these systems which we know well and we know work, so we're now able to crank out big, meaningful quality-of-life changes without a bunch of extra legwork. As always, thanks for your patience- the half dozen changes mentioned in this post join another dozen announced in the past 2 months, but there's another hundred coming down the pipe with them.
And just as a parting gift, a few more things coming, sans context: spiderriding, condos, highlanders, netherbards, and seniority.